AI on a MEMS Device Brings Neuromorphic Computing to the Edge

  • October 16, 2018
    AI on MEMS can do tons of calculations with a minuscule amount of power
    Image: Guillaume Dion
    A single silicon beam (red), along with its drive (yellow) and readout (green and blue) electrodes, implements a MEMS capable of nontrivial computations.

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    In order to achieve the edge computing that people talk about in a host of applications including 5G networks and the Internet of Things (IoT), you need to pack a lot of processing power into comparatively small devices.

    The way forward for that idea will be to leverage artificial intelligence (AI) computing techniques—for so-called AI at the edge. While some are concerned about how technologists will tackle AI for applications beyond traditional computing—and some are wringing their hands over which country will have the upper hand in this new frontier—the technology is still pretty early in its development cycle.

    But it appears that still-too-early-yet status is about to change a bit. Researchers at the Université de Sherbrooke in Québec, Canada, have managed to equip a micro-electromechanical system (MEMS) device with a form of artificial intelligence, marking the first time that any type of AI has been included in a MEMs device. The result is a kind of neuromorphic computing that operates like the human brain, but in a microscale device. The combination makes it possible to process data on the device itself, thus improving the prospects for edge computing.

    “We had already written a paper last year showing theoretically that MEMS AI could be done,” said Julien Sylvestre, a professor at Sherbrooke and co-author of the research paper detailing the advance. “Our latest breakthrough was to demonstrate a device that could do it in the lab.”

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