Fathom this, your computer might use lights to teach itself to think. That’s what the folks at Fathom are working on, a computer that processes data using light, not electricity.
|This Computer Uses Light—Not Electricity—To Train AI Algorithms|
It’s a prototype computer that processes data using light, not electricity, and it’s learning to recognize handwritten digits. In other experiments the device learned to generate sentences in text.
Right now, this embryonic optical computer is good, not great: on its best run it read 90 percent of scrawled numbers correctly. But Andregg, who cofounded Fathom late in 2014 with his brother Michael, sees it as a breakthrough. “We opened the champagne when it was only at about 30 percent,” he says with a laugh.
Andregg claims this is the first time such complex machine-learning software has been trained using circuits that pulse with laser light, not electricity. The company is working to shrink its exploded telescope, which covers a few square feet of workbench, to fit into a standard cloud server. Fathom hopes the technology will become one of the shovels of the artificial-intelligence gold rush…..
Fathom’s founders are betting this hunger for more powerful machine learning will outstrip the capabilities of purely electronic computers. “Optics has fundamental advantages over electronics that no amount of design will overcome,” says William Andregg. He and his brother’s 11-person company is backed by Playground Global, the venture firm led by Andy Rubin, who coinvented the Android operating system now owned by Google. Fathom operates out of Playground’s combined offices and workshops in Palo Alto, California. The facility, which true to its name also boasts a slide popular with Andregg’s 18-month-old daughter, previously hosted Nervana, the startup acquired by Intel in 2016 to form the heart of the chip giant’s AI hardware strategy.
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