Light-Based Solutions Revolutionize Computing

image provided by pixabay

This post is also available in: עברית (Hebrew)

There is a recent explosion in demand for computer processing power worldwide following the AI boom, and the traditional methods of fitting ever-smaller transistors onto a chip are reaching their limit.

The company Lightmatter is reimagining the future of computing by reinventing the computer chip. Their “Passage chip” utilizes light’s speed and bandwidth benefits (similar to fiber optic cables) for efficient processor interconnection.

According to Interesting Engineering, Lightmatter uses both photons and electrons to power its first two devices – an AI-focused photonic processor and an interconnect that makes data transfer between chips easier. They are both meant to resolve two fundamental issues: the communication methods among chips and the techniques for conducting AI calculations.

Lightmatter’s “Envise” chip combines the aspects of computing that electrons are good at (like memory) with the abilities of light (like huge matrix multiplications for deep learning models). With photonics, the computer can perform several calculations simultaneously because the data is being received in several light hues.

Nicholas Harris, CEO and co-founder of Lightmatter explains: “In one color, you could have a photo of a dog. In another color, you could have a photo of a cat. In another color, maybe a tree, and you could have all three of those operations going through the same optical computing unit, this matrix accelerator, at the same time. That drives up operations per area, and it reuses the hardware that’s there, driving up energy efficiency.”

The “Passage” chip links processors by utilizing the latency and bandwidth benefits of light (like how fiber optic cables transmit data across great distances), allowing chips to function as a single processor as large as entire wafers.

Lightmatter is also focusing on boosting computing’s energy efficiency in order to meet the world’s growing demand without significantly increasing power usage.

The company concludes that its objective is to develop the next generation of computers, all centered around the utilization of light. “We’re going to continue looking at all of the pieces of computers to figure out where light can accelerate them, make them more energy efficient, and faster, and we’re going to continue to replace those parts,” said Harris.