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China’s Policing Robot: Cattle Prod Meets Supercomputer

Computerworld (10/31/16) Patrick Thibodeau

Chinese researchers have developed AnBot, an “intelligent security robot” deployed in a Shenzhen airport. The backend of AnBot is linked to China’s Tianhe-2 supercomputer, where it has access to cloud services. AnBot uses these technologies to conduct patrols, recognize threats, and identify people with multiple cameras and facial recognition. The cloud services give the robots petascale processing power, well beyond the processing capabilities in the robot itself. The supercomputer connection enhances the intelligent learning capabilities and human-machine interface of the devices, according to a U.S.-China Economic and Security Review report that focuses on China’s autonomous systems development efforts. The report found the ability of robotics to improve depends on the linking of artificial intelligence (AI), data science, and computing technologies. In addition, the report notes simultaneous development of high-performance computing systems and robotic mechanical manipulation give AI the potential to unleash smarter robotic devices that are capable of learning as well as integrating inputs from large databases. The report says the U.S. government should increase its own efforts in developing manufacturing technology in critical areas, as well as monitoring China’s growing investments in robotics and AI companies in the U.S.

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Texas Goes Big With 18-Petaflop Supercomputer

Computerworld (06/02/16) Patrick Thibodeau

The Stampede 2 supercomputer to be set up at the Texas Advanced Computer Center (TACC) is designed to replace and approximately double the performance of Stampede, its 9-petaflop predecessor. The new system, which is scheduled to be available for research by next June, is being funded by a $30-million grant from the U.S. National Science Foundation. Stampede 2 will utilize Dell servers and Intel chips, and TACC also is upgrading Stampede with the addition of 500 Knights Landing-based Xeon Phi systems, which can support as many as 72 cores to raise its aggregate performance above 10 petaflops. The new supercomputer will incorporate 3D XPoint non-volatile memory technology, which is 1,000 times faster than NAND flash. “We anticipate [Stampede 2] will be the biggest machine in a U.S. university by next year,” says TACC executive director Dan Stanzione. He notes although Stampede has managed 7 million jobs since its inception, TACC still gets five times as many requests for time on the system as it can deliver. Stanzione says Stampede 2 will help fulfill this backlog, while higher resolutions and more accurate modeling for large runs will be among its advantages, along with faster completion times for smaller jobs. TACC says Stampede and Stampede 2 will use about the same number of nodes, and it expects each of the 6,000 nodes to be capable of approximately 3 teraflops.

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U.S. Efforts to Build Next-Gen Supercomputer Take Shape

Computerworld (04/25/16) Patrick Thibodeau

The U.S. government has set a 2023 deadline to develop an exascale computer that can solve science problems 50 times faster than is possible with currently available 20-petaflop computers. The system will consume between 20 MW and 30 MW of power. “The U.S. faces serious and urgent economic, environmental, and national security challenges based on energy, climate, and growing security threats,” says the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). “High-performance computing (HPC) is a requirement for addressing such challenges, and the need for the development of capable exascale computers has become critical for solving these problems.” The government plans to spend almost $300 million on exascale system development in 2016, while a 2017 budget calls for a slightly higher allocation. Published DOE planning documents estimate the total cost for an exascale system at about $3 billion. University of Tennessee professor Jack Dongarra notes China is pursuing a 100-petaflop system with two projects, and an announcement is expected soon. The competition to build an exascale system “is really up for grabs at this point,” says IDC analyst Steve Conway.

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