MIT’s new chip could bring neural nets to battery-powered gadgets


MIT researchers have developed a chip designed to speed up the hard work of running neural networks, while also reducing the power consumed when doing so dramatically – by up to 95 percent, in fact. The basic concept involves simplifying the chip design so that shuttling of data between different processors on the same chip is taken out of the equation.

The big advantage of this new method, developed by a team led by MIT graduate student Avishek Biswas, is that it could potentially be used to run neural networks on smartphones, household devices and other portable gadgets, rather than requiring servers drawing constant power from the grid.

Why is that important? Because it means that phones of the future using this chip could do things like advanced speech and face recognition using neural nets and deep learning locally, rather than requiring more crude, rule-based algorithms, or routing information to the cloud and back to interpret results.

Computing ‘at the edge,’ as its called, or at the site of sensors actually gathering the data, is increasingly something companies are pursuing and implementing, so this new chip design method could have a big impact on that growing opportunity should it become commercialized.

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