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Probabilistic logic makes microchip more energy efficient

Darren Murph
02.09.09
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We'll be straight up with you -- there's a lot of fancy work going on with this one that laypeople will have a tough time grasping, but the long and short of it is this: a team from Rice University (Krishna Palem pictured) and Nanyang Technological University have created a microchip that "uses 30 times less electricity while running seven times faster than today's best technology." Already crying snake oil? Not so fast. By trashing the traditional set of mathematical rules (that'd be Boolean logic) and instead applying probabilistic logic, researchers have figured out how to deliver similar results with a fraction of the energy. The tech is being dubbed PCMOS (probabilistic CMOS), and could eventually end up in embedded systems and even cellphones. In the case of the latter, this type of chip will be able to display streaming video on a minuscule display with more artifacts than usual, but due to the small screen size and the human brain's ability to piece together nearly-perfect images, the errors involved would be all but forgotten. Meanwhile, your battery bar would still be nearly full. We always heard there was beauty in imperfections -- now, at long last, we finally get it.

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