Indo-US startup preps agent-based AI processor

August 26, 2018 // By Peter Clarke
Indo-US startup preps agent-based AI processor
The latest AI processor company to surface is AlphaICs Corp. headquartered in California, with offices in Bangalore and co-founded by engineer Nagendra Nagaraja, engineer-turned venture capitalist Vinod Dham and marketing executive Prashant Trivedi.

The company has an experienced founding team and some innovations to offer. Vinod Dahm, who serves as chief operating officer, is known as the "father of the Pentium" and CEO Nagaraja has processor architecture design time at Qualcomm, ST-Ericsson and Nvidia under his belt.

AlphaICs is coming with a new twist on an old idea – that of the software agent or virtual machine – but one that is designed to perform artificial intelligence operations. The company is developing what it describes as an agent-based real AI processor architecture (RAP) that will be able to perform learning, unsupervised learning, inference and decision making.

A second twist is that AlphaICs processor is being architected to perform a range of artificial intelligence operations including training, inference and unsupervised learning.

The company executives like to benchmark the performance of their deep learning approach to the use of graphics processor units (GPUs) by companies such as Nvidia. Not surprisingly in such comparisons AlphaICs scores well although most people understand that GPUs are typically inferior to neural network optimized hardware.

This comparison to GPUs may partly because AlphaICs CEO Nagaraja spent three years with Nvidia between 2013 and 2016 where he ended his employment there as lead chip designer. Prior to that he was a lead architect for smartphone SoCs with ST-Ericsson and prior to that had spent 8 years in chip engineering with Qualcomm.

Nagendra Nagaraja, CEO of AlphaICs.

However, rather than develop a chip that is simply hardwired for neural networking with seas of multiply-accumulators (MACs) AlphaICs is taking a broader view of the machine-learning market. It is developing an instruction set architecture (ISA) and hardware that, while multiplier and adder rich, will be optimized for numerous deep learning tasks. AlphaICs describes each of the core elements as a real AI processor (RAP) agent and intends to develop chips with between tens and hundreds of these agent-cores.

Nagajara explained that agents are a software entity that is roughly analogous to the hardware entity that is the processing element. But a single processing element can support multiple agents and a single agent's activity can be spread across multiple processing elements.

Next: What is an agent?

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