Rice Universitys computer chip makes it to Technology Review’s top 10

February 20th, 2008 - 4:23 pm ICT by admin  


Washington, Feb 20 (ANI): The gambling computer chip technology by Rice University, which can boost battery life as much as tenfold on cell phones and laptops while slashing development costs for chipmakers, has made it to makes MIT magazine’s coveted top 10 list of emerging technologies.

Technology Review, one of the world’s oldest and most respected trade publications, features its annual TR10 Special Report in the March/April issue. Both the Department of Defense and chipmaker Intel have underwritten research on Rice’s new chip, which is known as PCMOS.

The technologies, which are included in the list, are most likely to alter industries, fields of research, and even the way we live.

“We are challenging a long-held convention in computing, the notion that ‘information’ is, by definition, correct and exact,” said PCMOS inventor Krishna Palem, Rice’s Ken and Audrey Kennedy Professor in Computer Science.

“In fact, the human mind routinely makes do with imprecise and incomplete information. Our goal is create a new computer architecture that takes advantage of this innate human ability in order to slash power consumption and hold down microchip design costs, he added.

The PCMOS concept is deceptively simple - slash power to some transistors on the processor and take a chance that a few calculations will be incorrect.

The technology piggybacks onto “complementary metal-oxide semiconductor” technology, or CMOS, the basic technology chipmakers already use. The probability of calculation errors yields the name “probabilistic” CMOS, or PCMOS.

PCMOS chips compute differently than regular chips because of way electricity moves through their transistors. Rather than pushing the same amount of power through all parts of the PCMOS chip, voltage is assigned on a sliding scale.

The upshot being that the numbers that users value the thousands place on the bank statement, for example are always correct, while less valuable numbers may be incorrect.

“Professor Palem is proposing a radical change in how we use integrated circuits,” said David Rutledge, chair of the division of engineering and applied science at the California Institute of Technology.

“Turning down the supply voltage reduces the power requirements and introduces randomness that has the potential to be exploited for computations, he added. (ANI)

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