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Darpa Has Seen the Future of Computing…and It’s Analog

Wired News (08/22/12) Robert McMillan

The U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) recently launched the Unconventional Processing of Signals for Intelligent Data Exploitation (UPSIDE) program, which will investigate building computers without using digital processors.  The aim is to build computer chips that are much more power-efficient than conventional processors.  “One of the things that’s happened in the last 10 to 15 years is that power-scaling has stopped,” says DARPA researcher Daniel Hammerstrom.  The UPSIDE chips could be an alternative to normal Boolean logic, in which the voltage in a chip’s transistor represents a zero or a one.  Hammerstrom wants chipmakers to build analog processors that can do probabilistic math without forcing transistors into an absolute one-or-zero state, a technique that consumes energy.  The UPSIDE program will run in two phases over a 54-month period.  The first phase will involve companies developing chips using probabilistic techniques.  The second phase will involve building mobile imaging systems using the chips.

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