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Researchers Develop an Optical Chip to Train Machine Learning Hardware

A multi-institution research team has developed an optical chip that can train machine learning hardware. 

The Situation

Machine learning applications skyrocketed to $165B annually, according to a recent report from McKinsey. But, before a machine can perform intelligence tasks such as recognizing the details of an image, it must be trained. Training of modern-day artificial intelligence (AI) systems like Tesla's autopilot costs several million dollars in electric power consumption and requires supercomputer-like infrastructure.

This surging AI "appetite" leaves an ever-widening gap between computer hardware and demand for AI. Photonic integrated circuits, or simply optical chips, have emerged as a possible solution to deliver higher computing performance, as measured by the number of operations performed per second per watt used, or TOPS/W. However, though they've demonstrated improved core operations in machine intelligence used for data classification, photonic chips have yet to improve the actual front-end learning and machine training process. 

T​​​​​​​he Solution

Mahility is part of a larger effort around photonic tensor cores and other electronic-photonic application-specific integrated circuits (ASIC) that leverage photonic chip manufacturing for machine learning and AI applications.

From the Researchers

"This novel hardware will speed up the training of machine learning systems and harness the best of what both photonics and electronic chips have to offer. It is a major leap forward for AI hardware acceleration. These are the kinds of advancements we need in the semiconductor industry as underscored by the recently passed CHIPS Act."  Volker Sorger, Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the George Washington University and founder of the start-up company Optelligence. 


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