[ExI] Microsoft is testing the first optical computer

BillK pharos at gmail.com
Sun Jul 2 10:43:06 UTC 2023

Unlocking the future of computing: The Analog Iterative Machine’s
lightning-fast approach to optimization
June 27, 2023      By Hitesh Ballani , Partner Researcher


The Analog Iterative Machine (AIM) is designed to solve difficult
optimization problems, which form the foundation of many industries,
such as finance, logistics, transportation, energy, healthcare, and
manufacturing. However, traditional digital computers struggle to
crack these problems in a timely, energy-efficient and cost-effective
manner. This is because the number of possible combinations explodes
exponentially as the problem size grows, making it a massive challenge
for even the most powerful digital computers. The Traveling Salesman
Problem is a classic example. Imagine trying to find the most
efficient route for visiting a set of cities just once before
returning to the starting point. With only five cities, there are 12
possible routes – but for a 61-city problem, the number of potential
routes surpasses the number of atoms in the universe.

Today, AIM is still a research project, but the cross-disciplinary
team has recently assembled the world’s first opto-electronic hardware
for mixed – continuous and binary – optimization problems. Though
presently operating on a limited scale, the initial results are
promising, and the team has started scaling up its efforts. This
includes a research collaboration with the UK-based multinational bank
Barclays to solve an optimization problem critical to the financial
markets on the AIM computer.

Still a research project, but the hope is that optical computing can
leap ahead of the ending of Moore's Law for silicon chips.


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