Photonics startup Lightmatter details its AI optical accelerator chip


Ahead of the Hot Chips conference this week, photonics chip startup Lightmatter revealed the first technical details about its upcoming test chip. Unlike conventional processors and graphics cards, the test chip uses light to send signals, promising orders of magnitude higher performance and efficiency. The technology underpinning the test chip -- photonic integrated circuits -- stems from a 2017 paper coauthored by Lightmatter CEO and MIT alumnus Nicholas Harris that described a novel way to perform machine learning workloads using optical interference. Chips like the test chip, which is on track for a fall 2021 release, require only a limited amount of energy because light produces less heat than electricity. They also benefit from reduced latency and are less susceptible to changes in temperature, electromagnetic fields, and noise.

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