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Installing cognitive algorithms in small computers
How can limited-capacity devices such as smartphones run highly complex AI algorithms in the future? In the Wiplash project, researchers at the University of Siegen are working on a solution with a new computer architecture.
The field of artificial intelligence is
developing at breakneck speed. Today, automatic image
recognition is advancing rapidly and machines have long
been capable of learning games by themselves. These are
just two of countless examples. It seems the sky's the
limit, if only we could overcome the technical constraints.
The problem is that AI is based on complex algorithms and
consumes vast computer processing power. This often
requires large computer centers. Currently, it is
practically impossible to transfer the algorithms to
smaller devices like smartphones. In the EU-funded Wiplash
project, a team from the University of Siegen and
scientists from all over Europe are working on changing
this. "It's about taking AI out of large computer centers
and transferring it to mobile platforms", says Prof. Dr.
Haring Bolívar, the Chair of High Frequency and Quantum
This requires novel computer structures which replace the current von Neumann architecture. Today, the microprocessor and memory inside a computer are separate. That costs too much time and energy. It prevents effective and rapid processing of complex AI algorithms. "We're developing a new form of hardware, a kind of mutant consisting of both memory and microprocessor similar to the synapses in the human brain," explains Prof. Haring Bolívar. "This is crucial to achieve cognitive technical systems that can work nearly as efficiently as the brain. For example, the human brain only needs a short time and a low power of 20 watts to learn a sequence of images. Today the same learning process takes complex computers with a large number of processors (GPUs) weeks and a total power consumption of 400 kilowatt-hours." Haring Bolívar's team in Siegen is responsible for the subunits of these "mutants" and for realising communication between the intelligent chips. For this, they intend to use terahertz radiation.
"This is a great project. It's also a validation for us that we won through in this most competitive area of European research," says Prof. Haring Bolívar. He is delighted about securing a place in the EU-funded Future and Emerging Technologies program and about the cooperation with renowned partners. Wiplash has a total volume of EUR 3 million. The University of Siegen will receive EUR 420,000. During the invitation to bid, 400 applications were submitted. With 4.85 of a possible 5 points, Wiplash achieved an excellent rating, placing it among the best 1.8 percent of projects in Europe. Partners in the project are the Politècnica de Catalunya, the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, RWTH Aachen, the University of Bologna, IBM Research Zurich, and AMO GmbH.
The Wiplash research team led by Prof. Peter Haring Bolívar (2nd right) of the University of Siegen at the kick-off meeting in Barcelona. (The photo was taken at the meeting in November 2019.)