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!
New 3-D display takes the eye fatigue out of virtual reality
22.06.2017 | The Optical Society
Modeling the brain with 'Lego bricks'
19.06.2017 | University of Luxembourg
Heatwaves in the Arctic, longer periods of vegetation in Europe, severe floods in West Africa – starting in 2021, scientists want to explore the emissions of the greenhouse gas methane with the German-French satellite MERLIN. This is made possible by a new robust laser system of the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT in Aachen, which achieves unprecedented measurement accuracy.
Methane is primarily the result of the decomposition of organic matter. The gas has a 25 times greater warming potential than carbon dioxide, but is not as...
Hydrogen is regarded as the energy source of the future: It is produced with solar power and can be used to generate heat and electricity in fuel cells. Empa researchers have now succeeded in decoding the movement of hydrogen ions in crystals – a key step towards more efficient energy conversion in the hydrogen industry of tomorrow.
As charge carriers, electrons and ions play the leading role in electrochemical energy storage devices and converters such as batteries and fuel cells. Proton...
Scientists from the Excellence Cluster Universe at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität Munich have establised "Cosmowebportal", a unique data centre for cosmological simulations located at the Leibniz Supercomputing Centre (LRZ) of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences. The complete results of a series of large hydrodynamical cosmological simulations are available, with data volumes typically exceeding several hundred terabytes. Scientists worldwide can interactively explore these complex simulations via a web interface and directly access the results.
With current telescopes, scientists can observe our Universe’s galaxies and galaxy clusters and their distribution along an invisible cosmic web. From the...
Temperature measurements possible even on the smallest scale / Molecular ruby for use in material sciences, biology, and medicine
Chemists at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) in cooperation with researchers of the German Federal Institute for Materials Research and Testing (BAM)...
Germany counts high-precision manufacturing processes among its advantages as a location. It’s not just the aerospace and automotive industries that require almost waste-free, high-precision manufacturing to provide an efficient way of testing the shape and orientation tolerances of products. Since current inline measurement technology not yet provides the required accuracy, the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT is collaborating with four renowned industry partners in the INSPIRE project to develop inline sensors with a new accuracy class. Funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF), the project is scheduled to run until the end of 2019.
New Manufacturing Technologies for New Products
19.06.2017 | Event News
13.06.2017 | Event News
13.06.2017 | Event News
22.06.2017 | Life Sciences
22.06.2017 | Materials Sciences
22.06.2017 | Materials Sciences