EPFL Researchers Leverage Optics to Advance Efficient, ‘Supercomputer-Level’ Machine Learning

By Oliver Peckham

September 3, 2021

As datasets get larger and larger, the potential of machine learning insights from those datasets grows correspondingly immense – but bottlenecks in computing and data transfer speeds limit the attainment of those insights. Now, advances from researchers at the École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) in Switzerland have moved one promising solution – fiber optics-based information processing – a step closer to viability.

“Light transmits information without any physical interference from cables. That’s the core advantage of optical technology when it comes to transferring data,” explained Demetri Psaltis, head of EPFL’s Optics Laboratory. “To take artificial intelligence as an example, many AI programs require accelerators to carry out rapid calculations using minimal power. For now, while optical technology could theoretically meet that need, it has not yet reached the applied stage – despite a half-century of research. That’s because optical computing and decision-making do not yet save either time or energy.”

Moser and Psaltis. Image courtesy of Alain Herzog/EPFL.

Psaltis, in collaboration with Christophe Moser’s Laboratory of Applied Photonic Devices (also at EPFL), set out to make progress on this rather large caveat. They developed a tool called the Scalable Optical Learning Operator (SOLO, for short). SOLO, powered by machine learning, can recognize and classify 2D images using a novel hybrid optical architecture that applies fibers for some tasks while retaining many of the benefits of traditional computing.

“The calculations are executed automatically by the propagation of light pulses inside the fiber,” explained Uğur Teğin, one of the co-authors of the paper. “This simplifies the computer’s architecture, retaining only a single neuronal layer, making it a hybrid system.”

The researchers tested the hybrid optical method using a dataset of lung X-rays from COVID-19 patients, attaining good accuracy (83 percent) compared to a traditional AI method. “Both systems classified the X-rays equally well,” Moser said. “However, our system consumed 100 times less energy.”

Further benchmarking bore out these results. “[The] proposed optical computing platform performs as powerful as its digital counterparts for different tasks,” the researchers wrote. “With better energy efficiency than previous proposals and a path to PetaOPs scalability, SOLO provides a promising path toward supercomputer-level optical computation.”

“[Hybrid systems] combine the bandwidth and speed of optical processing with the flexibility of electronic computing,” Psaltis said. “When coupled with artificial intelligence programs in robotics, microscopy and other visual computing tasks, these hybrid systems could achieve some of the transformative capabilities that were, for a long time, imagined as the sole purview of optical computers.”

About the research

The research discussed in this article was published as “Scalable optical learning operator” in the August 2021 issue of Nature Computational Science. The paper was written by Uğur Teğin, Mustafa Yıldırım, İlker Oğuz, Christophe Moser and Demetri Psaltis and can be accessed in full here.

Subscribe to HPCwire's Weekly Update!

Be the most informed person in the room! Stay ahead of the tech trends with industry updates delivered to you every week!

Weekly Wire Roundup: July 8-July 12, 2024

July 12, 2024

HPC news can get pretty sleepy in June and July, but this week saw a bump in activity midweek as Americans realized they still had work to do after the previous holiday weekend. The world outside the United States also s Read more…

Nvidia, Intel not Welcomed in New Apple AI and HPC Development Tools

July 12, 2024

New Mac developer tools will leverage Apple's homegrown chips, limiting HPC users' ability to use parallel programming frameworks from Intel or Nvidia. Apple's latest programming framework, Xcode 16, was introduced at Read more…

Virga: Australia’s New HPC and AI Powerhouse

July 11, 2024

Australia has officially added another supercomputer to the TOP500 list with the implementation of Virga. Officially coming online in June 2024, Virga is the newest HPC system to come out of the Australian Commonwealth S Read more…

NSF Issues Next Solicitation and More Detail on National Quantum Virtual Laboratory

July 10, 2024

After percolating for roughly a year, NSF has issued the next solicitation for the National Quantum Virtual Lab program — this one focused on design and implementation phases of the Quantum Quantum Science and Technolo Read more…

NCSA’s SEAS Team Keeps APACE of AlphaFold2

July 9, 2024

High-performance computing (HPC) can often be challenging for researchers to use because it requires expertise in working with large datasets, scaling the software, and selecting the best user interface. The National Read more…

Anders Jensen on Europe’s Plan for AI-optimized Supercomputers, Welcoming the UK, and More

July 8, 2024

The recent ISC24 conference in Hamburg showcased LUMI and other leadership-class supercomputers co-funded by the EuroHPC Joint Undertaking (JU), including three of the 10 highest-ranking Top500 systems, but some other ne Read more…

Shutterstock 2203611339

NSF Issues Next Solicitation and More Detail on National Quantum Virtual Laboratory

July 10, 2024

After percolating for roughly a year, NSF has issued the next solicitation for the National Quantum Virtual Lab program — this one focused on design and imple Read more…

NCSA’s SEAS Team Keeps APACE of AlphaFold2

July 9, 2024

High-performance computing (HPC) can often be challenging for researchers to use because it requires expertise in working with large datasets, scaling the softw Read more…

Anders Jensen on Europe’s Plan for AI-optimized Supercomputers, Welcoming the UK, and More

July 8, 2024

The recent ISC24 conference in Hamburg showcased LUMI and other leadership-class supercomputers co-funded by the EuroHPC Joint Undertaking (JU), including three Read more…

Generative AI to Account for 1.5% of World’s Power Consumption by 2029

July 8, 2024

Generative AI will take on a larger chunk of the world's power consumption to keep up with the hefty hardware requirements to run applications. "AI chips repres Read more…

US Senators Propose $32 Billion in Annual AI Spending, but Critics Remain Unconvinced

July 5, 2024

Senate leader, Chuck Schumer, and three colleagues want the US government to spend at least $32 billion annually by 2026 for non-defense related AI systems.  T Read more…

Point and Click HPC: High-Performance Desktops

July 3, 2024

Recently, an interesting paper appeared on Arvix called Use Cases for High-Performance Research Desktops. To be clear, the term desktop in this context does not Read more…

IonQ Plots Path to Commercial (Quantum) Advantage

July 2, 2024

IonQ, the trapped ion quantum computing specialist, delivered a progress report last week firming up 2024/25 product goals and reviewing its technology roadmap. Read more…

Shutterstock_1687123447

Nvidia Economics: Make $5-$7 for Every $1 Spent on GPUs

June 30, 2024

Nvidia is saying that companies could make $5 to $7 for every $1 invested in GPUs over a four-year period. Customers are investing billions in new Nvidia hardwa Read more…

Atos Outlines Plans to Get Acquired, and a Path Forward

May 21, 2024

Atos – via its subsidiary Eviden – is the second major supercomputer maker outside of HPE, while others have largely dropped out. The lack of integrators and Atos' financial turmoil have the HPC market worried. If Atos goes under, HPE will be the only major option for building large-scale systems. Read more…

Everyone Except Nvidia Forms Ultra Accelerator Link (UALink) Consortium

May 30, 2024

Consider the GPU. An island of SIMD greatness that makes light work of matrix math. Originally designed to rapidly paint dots on a computer monitor, it was then Read more…

Comparing NVIDIA A100 and NVIDIA L40S: Which GPU is Ideal for AI and Graphics-Intensive Workloads?

October 30, 2023

With long lead times for the NVIDIA H100 and A100 GPUs, many organizations are looking at the new NVIDIA L40S GPU, which it’s a new GPU optimized for AI and g Read more…

Nvidia’s New Blackwell GPU Can Train AI Models with Trillions of Parameters

March 18, 2024

Nvidia's latest and fastest GPU, codenamed Blackwell, is here and will underpin the company's AI plans this year. The chip offers performance improvements from Read more…

Shutterstock_1687123447

Nvidia Economics: Make $5-$7 for Every $1 Spent on GPUs

June 30, 2024

Nvidia is saying that companies could make $5 to $7 for every $1 invested in GPUs over a four-year period. Customers are investing billions in new Nvidia hardwa Read more…

Nvidia Shipped 3.76 Million Data-center GPUs in 2023, According to Study

June 10, 2024

Nvidia had an explosive 2023 in data-center GPU shipments, which totaled roughly 3.76 million units, according to a study conducted by semiconductor analyst fir Read more…

Some Reasons Why Aurora Didn’t Take First Place in the Top500 List

May 15, 2024

The makers of the Aurora supercomputer, which is housed at the Argonne National Laboratory, gave some reasons why the system didn't make the top spot on the Top Read more…

Nvidia H100: Are 550,000 GPUs Enough for This Year?

August 17, 2023

The GPU Squeeze continues to place a premium on Nvidia H100 GPUs. In a recent Financial Times article, Nvidia reports that it expects to ship 550,000 of its lat Read more…

Leading Solution Providers

Contributors

AMD Clears Up Messy GPU Roadmap, Upgrades Chips Annually

June 3, 2024

In the world of AI, there's a desperate search for an alternative to Nvidia's GPUs, and AMD is stepping up to the plate. AMD detailed its updated GPU roadmap, w Read more…

Intel’s Next-gen Falcon Shores Coming Out in Late 2025 

April 30, 2024

It's a long wait for customers hanging on for Intel's next-generation GPU, Falcon Shores, which will be released in late 2025.  "Then we have a rich, a very Read more…

Google Announces Sixth-generation AI Chip, a TPU Called Trillium

May 17, 2024

On Tuesday May 14th, Google announced its sixth-generation TPU (tensor processing unit) called Trillium.  The chip, essentially a TPU v6, is the company's l Read more…

Choosing the Right GPU for LLM Inference and Training

December 11, 2023

Accelerating the training and inference processes of deep learning models is crucial for unleashing their true potential and NVIDIA GPUs have emerged as a game- Read more…

IonQ Plots Path to Commercial (Quantum) Advantage

July 2, 2024

IonQ, the trapped ion quantum computing specialist, delivered a progress report last week firming up 2024/25 product goals and reviewing its technology roadmap. Read more…

The NASA Black Hole Plunge

May 7, 2024

We have all thought about it. No one has done it, but now, thanks to HPC, we see what it looks like. Hold on to your feet because NASA has released videos of wh Read more…

Q&A with Nvidia’s Chief of DGX Systems on the DGX-GB200 Rack-scale System

March 27, 2024

Pictures of Nvidia's new flagship mega-server, the DGX GB200, on the GTC show floor got favorable reactions on social media for the sheer amount of computing po Read more…

MLPerf Inference 4.0 Results Showcase GenAI; Nvidia Still Dominates

March 28, 2024

There were no startling surprises in the latest MLPerf Inference benchmark (4.0) results released yesterday. Two new workloads — Llama 2 and Stable Diffusion Read more…

  • arrow
  • Click Here for More Headlines
  • arrow
HPCwire