Researchers have shown that it is possible to train artificial neural networks directly on an optical chip. The significant breakthrough demonstrates that an optical circuit can perform a critical function of an electronics-based artificial neural network and could lead to less expensive, faster and more energy efficient ways to perform complex tasks such as speech or image recognition.
“Using an optical chip to perform neural network computations more efficiently than is possible with digital computers could allow more complex problems to be solved,” said research team leader Shanhui Fan of Stanford University. “This would enhance the capability of artificial neural networks to perform tasks required for self-driving cars or to formulate an appropriate response to a spoken question, for example. It could also improve our lives in ways we can’t imagine now.”
An artificial neural network is a type of artificial intelligence that uses connected units to process information in a manner similar to the way the brain processes information. Using these networks to perform a complex task, for instance voice recognition, requires the critical step of training the algorithms to categorize inputs, such as different words.