Researchers from imec and KU Leuven designed a chip to speed up AI computations. The chip, named DIANA, is the first AI accelerator to combine digital and analogue processors. A promising feat.

The researchers combined a digital and analogue processor. According to imec and KU Leuven (university), the combination has never been used before in chips that speed up AI computations. The design has already been produced. GlobalFoundries, an American chip manufacturer, was given the honour.

The combination of analogue and digital makes it possible to assign computational tasks to the most appropriate processor. The most appropriate processor varies per application. The digital processor calculates much more accurately than the analogue alternative. The analogue processor is more energy-efficient than the digital alternative.

According to Marian Verhelst, research director at imec and professor of microelectronics at KU Leuven, the combination becomes more important with each passing year. She argues that the complexity of AI algorithms is rapidly increasing. Processors not only have to work harder, but increasingly energy-efficient as well. The scales are tipping as AI demands increase.

Smart robotic arms

According to the researchers, the new chip opens doors for future and current AI applications, including robotic arms. DIANA can calculate the locations of objects and optimal routes to objects. Calculations are distributed among the analogue and digital processor at lightning speed, reducing energy consumption while keeping speed intact.

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