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posted by takyon on Friday November 04 2016, @10:22PM   Printer-friendly
from the lights-on-for-optics dept.

As the cost of sequencing a person's genome plummets, demand for the computing power needed to make sense of the genetic information is growing. Nicholas New hopes some of it will be worked on by a processor that parses data using laser light, built by his U.K. startup, Optalysys.

New says his company's exotic approach to crunching data can dramatically upgrade a conventional computer by taking over some of the most demanding work in applications such as genomics and simulating weather. "The grunt work can be done by the optics," he says.

Researchers have worked on the idea of using optics rather than electronics to process data for decades, with little commercial traction. But New argues that it is now needed because manufacturers such as Intel admit that they can't keep improving conventional chips at the pace they used to

takyon: Optalysys is a company that claims it will scale to petaflops and exaflops in the near future using desktop amounts of power. However, their technology has been described as a coprocessor so it isn't clear what kind of operations it can perform. Much has been made of its partnership with The Genome Analysis Center (TGAC).

The article also mentions LightOn, which published this paper. Optical and quantum computing are both being examined for their potential to enhance machine learning. Google is researching the quantum approach.

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  • (Score: 1) by Ethanol-fueled on Saturday November 05 2016, @12:01AM

    by Ethanol-fueled (2792) on Saturday November 05 2016, @12:01AM (#422686) Homepage

    It looks rather gimmicky. And until we move to all-optical architectures (fat chance), then we're still left at the mercy of the O-E converters. I was horrified to read in the article that the light was being read by a "camera sensor," because even traditional laser diodes (GaN or the GaAs family) are capable of high-speed multiplexing [] and have been for quite awhile.

    What I'm getting out of this article is that this device is comparing snapshots, or something. But hopefully somebody could explain it better.

  • (Score: 3, Informative) by takyon on Saturday November 05 2016, @01:58AM

    by takyon (881) <> on Saturday November 05 2016, @01:58AM (#422711) Journal

    There's no point of even thinking about it right now, which is why I've mentioned Optalysys in a few comments but never subbed a story yet. They claimed that they could have a 9 petaflops machine ready to be sold by 2017 and 17.1 exaflops by 2020. Even if they are a couple of orders of magnitude off, it would still be a vast improvement in FLOPS/W. Until then, it's vaporware.

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