updated 03:14 pm EDT, Thu May 17, 2012
Processor loses 8 percent accuracy, slashes power draw
Researchers from Rice University and other institutions have unveiled an "inexact" computer chip that is built to allow for errors. The design forsakes 100 percent accuracy in an effort to save power; in its current form, the chips are claimed to be up to 15 times more efficient than current technology.
Conceptually, the processor saves power by allowing processing components to make a few mistakes. By managing the probability of errors and limiting which calculations could result in errors, performance was found to be boosted with reduced energy demands. Tests in 2011 showed that pruned chips were twice as fast, used half the power and were half the size of traditionally designed microchips. Most recent tests showed that an accuracy of 99.75 percent could be attained with a processor using 3.5 times less power; and with an accuracy of 92 percent, energy usage could be slashed by a factor of 15.
The research earned best-paper honors at the ACM International Conference on Computing Frontiers in Italy, with the technology being a core component of ISAID's I-slate educational tablet, being designed for Indian classrooms with low numbers of teachers and little to no electricity supply.
The work follows on from previous studies by Rice University, where three years ago a similar chip called a PCMOS (probability-based complimentary metal-oxide semiconductor) was revealed, designed for the same purpose.