Rice University's technology for a "gambling" computer chip, which could boost battery life as much as tenfold on cell phones and laptops while slashing development costs for chipmakers, has been named to MIT Technology Review's coveted annual top 10 list of technologies that are "most likely to alter industries, fields of research, and even the way we live."
Technology Review, one of the world's oldest and most respected trade publications, features its annual TR10 Special Report in the March/April issue. Both the Department of Defense and chipmaker Intel have underwritten research on Rice's new chip, which is known as PCMOS.
"We are challenging a long-held convention in computing, the notion that 'information' is, by definition, correct and exact," said PCMOS inventor Krishna Palem, Rice's Ken and Audrey Kennedy Professor in Computer Science. "In fact, the human mind routinely makes do with imprecise and incomplete information. Our goal is create a new computer architecture that takes advantage of this innate human ability in order to slash power consumption and hold down microchip design costs."
The PCMOS concept is deceptively simple; slash power to some transistors on the processor and take a chance that a few calculations will be incorrect. The technology piggybacks onto "complementary metal-oxide semiconductor" technology, or CMOS, the basic technology chipmakers already use. The probability of calculation errors yields the name "probabilistic" CMOS, or PCMOS.
One example of the way people deal with incomplete information comes in watching video on a cell phone, Palem said. His group's previous work has shown that viewers cannot tell the difference between video processed on regular microchips and PCMOS chips. Palem said the key is knowing how people "value" particular numbers. For example, when scanning a bank statement people will almost certainly catch an error worth thousands of dollars, while casting a blind eye to errors worth only pennies.
"Money is just the most obvious example, but we assign values automatically to most of the information we take in," Palem said. "In the case of the video, we concentrate our precise processing on the parts of the picture that are most valuable."
PCMOS chips compute differently than regular chips because of way electricity moves through their transistors. Rather than pushing the same amount of power through all parts of the PCMOS chip, voltage is assigned on a sliding scale. The upshot being that the numbers that users value the most -- the thousands place on the bank statement, for example -- are always correct, while less valuable numbers may be incorrect.
"Professor Palem is proposing a radical change in how we use integrated circuits," said David Rutledge, chair of the division of engineering and applied science at the California Institute of Technology. "Turning down the supply voltage reduces the power requirements and introduces randomness that has the potential to be exploited for computations."
Shekhar Borkar, an Intel Fellow and Director of Intel’s Microprocessor Technology Lab. said, "Innovative technologies like PCMOS will become increasingly important as the industry looks to maintain pace with Moore’s Law."
"Moore's Law," a concept first put forward by Intel co-founder Gordon Moore, refers to the industry's decades-long track record of doubling transistors per square inch on integrated circuits every 18 months. This exponential shrinkage has resulted in transistors on today's chips that measure a scant 45 billionths of a meter across. Palem, who recently finished a yearlong appointment as a Gordon Moore Distinguished Scholar at Caltech, said that as chipmakers strive to maintain Moore's Law, the basic physics of CMOS will yield transistors that are inherently probabilistic.
David Ruth | EurekAlert!
Ultra-precise chip-scale sensor detects unprecedentedly small changes at the nanoscale
18.01.2017 | The Hebrew University of Jerusalem
Data analysis optimizes cyber-physical systems in telecommunications and building automation
18.01.2017 | Fraunhofer-Institut für Algorithmen und Wissenschaftliches Rechnen SCAI
An important step towards a completely new experimental access to quantum physics has been made at University of Konstanz. The team of scientists headed by...
Yersiniae cause severe intestinal infections. Studies using Yersinia pseudotuberculosis as a model organism aim to elucidate the infection mechanisms of these...
Researchers from the University of Hamburg in Germany, in collaboration with colleagues from the University of Aarhus in Denmark, have synthesized a new superconducting material by growing a few layers of an antiferromagnetic transition-metal chalcogenide on a bismuth-based topological insulator, both being non-superconducting materials.
While superconductivity and magnetism are generally believed to be mutually exclusive, surprisingly, in this new material, superconducting correlations...
Laser-driving of semimetals allows creating novel quasiparticle states within condensed matter systems and switching between different states on ultrafast time scales
Studying properties of fundamental particles in condensed matter systems is a promising approach to quantum field theory. Quasiparticles offer the opportunity...
Among the general public, solar thermal energy is currently associated with dark blue, rectangular collectors on building roofs. Technologies are needed for aesthetically high quality architecture which offer the architect more room for manoeuvre when it comes to low- and plus-energy buildings. With the “ArKol” project, researchers at Fraunhofer ISE together with partners are currently developing two façade collectors for solar thermal energy generation, which permit a high degree of design flexibility: a strip collector for opaque façade sections and a solar thermal blind for transparent sections. The current state of the two developments will be presented at the BAU 2017 trade fair.
As part of the “ArKol – development of architecturally highly integrated façade collectors with heat pipes” project, Fraunhofer ISE together with its partners...
19.01.2017 | Event News
10.01.2017 | Event News
09.01.2017 | Event News
20.01.2017 | Awards Funding
20.01.2017 | Materials Sciences
20.01.2017 | Life Sciences