Jun 11, 2021

Google AI Designs Next-Gen Chips In Under 6 Hours

Google
AI
Manufacturing
semiconductor
3 min
Google AI’s deep reinforcement learning algorithms can optimise chip floor plans exponentially faster than their human counterparts

In a Google-Nature paper published on Wednesday, the company announced that AI will be able to design chips in less than six hours. Humans currently take months to design and layout the intricate chip wiring. Although the tech giant has been working in silence on the technology for years, this is the first time that AI-optimised chips have hit the mainstream—and that the company will sell the result as a commercial product. 

 

“Our method has been used in production to design the next generation of Google TPU (tensor processing unit chips)”, the paper’s authors, Azalea Mirhoseini and Anna Goldie wrote. The TPU v4 chips are the fastest Google system ever launched. “If you’re trying to train a large AI/ML system, and you’re using Google’s TensorFlow, this will be a big deal”, said Jack Gold, President and Principal Analyst at J.Gold Associates

 

Training the Algorithm 

In a process called reinforcement learning, Google engineers used a set of 10,000 chip floor plans to train the AI. Each example chip was assigned a score of sorts based on its efficiency and power usage, which the algorithm then used to distinguish between “good” and “bad” layouts. The more layouts it examines, the better it can generate versions of its own. 

 

Designing floor plans, or the optimal layouts for a chip’s sub-systems, takes intense human effort. Yet floorplanning is similar to an elaborate game. It has rules, patterns, and logic. In fact, just like chess or Go, it’s the ideal task for machine learning. Machines, after all, don’t follow the same constraints or in-built conditions that humans do; they follow logic, not preconception of what a chip should look like. And this has allowed AI to optimise the latest chips in a way we never could. 

 

As a result, AI-generated layouts look quite different to what a human would design. Instead of being neat and ordered, they look slightly more haphazard. Blurred photos of the carefully guarded chip designs show a slightly more chaotic wiring layout—but no one is questioning its efficiency. In fact, Google is starting to evaluate how it could use AI in architecture exploration and other cognitively intense tasks. 

 

Major Implications for the Semiconductor Sector 

Part of what’s impressive about Google’s breakthrough is that it could throw Moore’s Law, the axion that the number of transistors on a chip doubles every five years, out the window. The physical difficulty of squeezing more CPUs, GPUs, and memory on tiny silicon die will still exist, but AI optimisation may help speed up chip performance.

 

Any chance that AI can help speed up current chip production is welcome news. Though the U.S. Senate recently passed a US$52bn bill to supercharge domestic semiconductor supply chains, its largest tech firms remain far behind. According to Holger Mueller, principal analyst at Constellation Research, “the faster and cheaper AI will win in business and government, including with the military”. 

 

All in all, AI chip optimisation could allow Google to pull ahead of its competitors such as AWS and Microsoft. And if we can speed up workflows, design better chips, and use humans to solve more complex, fluid, wicked problems, that’s a win—for the tech world and for society. 

 

 

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Jun 15, 2021

Searching for the Top 100 Leaders in Technology

Technology
AI
live
leaders
2 min
Have your say and nominate technology industry influencers and legends in our search for the Top 100 Leaders announced at upcoming LIVE event

The search is on for the Top 100 Leaders in Technology 2021 – nominated by readers of Technology magazine and open to all.

The initiative has been launched and nominations are now open, with the final, prestigious Top 100 due to be announced during Technology and AI LIVE running 14-16 September, beamed from London to the world.

This latest, definitive list of the leading executives and influencers in the industry will be announced at the event and shared across social media channels, this website, and presented in a special supplement that honours all of those named in our annual list.

The Top 100 Leaders follows on from the well-received Top 100 Women in Technology that BizClik Media Group (BMG) – publishers of Technology magazine, AI magazine and a growing portfolio of industry-leading titles – produced in March this year to coincide with International Women’s Day. 

“The Top 100 Women recognised the incredible and influential women driving our industry,” says Scott Birch, editorial director, BMG. “The success of that initiative encouraged us to recognise the Top 100 Leaders – individuals championing everything that we love about technology and embracing best practice that’s good for business.”

Nominations are already coming in, with some notable highlights including:

Rhonda Vetere - Herbalife

Bryan Smith - Expedient

Nominate your Top 100 Leader HERE

The deadline for nominations closes on Sunday 1 August 2021, and it is free to nominate. The Top 100 Leaders will be announced across our platforms and at the LIVE event.

 

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