Archive for the ‘Analog Computing’ Category

DARPA Seeking Unconventional Processors for ISR Data Analysis [Analog Computing By Another Name]

Wednesday, August 29th, 2012

DARPA Seeking Unconventional Processors for ISR Data Analysis by Erwin Gianchandani.

From the post:

Earlier this month, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) announced a new initiative that aims “to break the status quo of digital processing” by investigating new ways of “non-digital” computation that are “fundamentally different from current digital processors and the power and speed limitations associated with them.” Called Unconventional Processing of Signals for Intelligent Data Exploitation, or UPSIDE, the initiative specifically seeks “a new, ultra-low power processing method [that] may enable faster, mission-critical analysis of [intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR)] data.”

According to the DARPA announcement (after the jump):

Instead of traditional complementary metal-oxide-semiconductor (CMOS)-based electronics, UPSIDE envisions arrays of physics-based devices (nanoscale oscillators may be one example) performing the processing. These arrays would self-organize and adapt to inputs, meaning that they will not need to be programmed as digital processors are. Unlike traditional digital processors that operate by executing specific instructions to compute, it is envisioned that the UPSIDE arrays will rely on a higher level computational element based on probabilistic inference embedded within a digital system.

Probabilistic inference is the fundamental computational model for the UPSIDE program. An inference process uses energy minimization to determine a probability distribution to find the object that is the most likely interpretation of the sensor data. It can be implemented directly in approximate precision by traditional semiconductors as well as by new kinds of emerging devices.

DARPA program manager Dan Hammerstrom noted:

“Redefining the fundamental computation as inference could unlock processing speeds and power efficiency for visual data sets that are not currently possible. DARPA hopes that this type of technology will not only yield faster video and image analysis, but also lend itself to being scaled for increasingly smaller platforms.

“Leveraging the physics of devices to perform computations is not a new idea, but it is one that has never been fully realized. However, digital processors can no longer keep up with the requirements of the Defense mission. We are reaching a critical mass in terms of our understanding of the required algorithms, of probabilistic inference and its role in sensor data processing, and the sophistication of new kinds of emerging devices. At DARPA, we believe that the time has come to fund the development of systems based on these ideas and take computational capabilities to the next level.”

How much “…not a new idea, but it is one that has never been fully realized[?]”

If you search for “analog computing,” you will get a good idea of how old and how useful a concept it has been.

You can jump to the Wikipedia article, Analog Computer or take a brief tour with the Analog Computer Manual.

Please post a note if you experiment with analog computing and subject identity processing.

Or if you decide that models for chemical reactions in the human brain should be analog ones and not digital.