Imprecise computers 'R' good enough for you, save power, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah

You may have heard of probabilistic computing, a concept that relies on "good enough" calculations to save processing power. You may not know just why and where we should use it, however; thankfully, ExtremeTech has just offered an explanation of the technology's merits. The site notes that it's getting difficult to maintain accuracy and power efficiency as processors get ever more complex. By reducing precision in areas where it's not as essential, such as browsing and media playback, chip designers can significantly improve battery life. The technology isn't in widespread use just yet, but it may become commonplace in the near future. NXP is already making limited use of imprecise computing to improve security, while Intel has investigated variable-precision floating-point math units that scale back for less intensive tasks. While accurate processors are here to stay, there's a real chance they'll be accompanied by probabilistic circuitry in future energy-efficient gadgets.