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Xnor shrinks AI to fit on solar-powered chip

Xnor.ai engineers and chip
Xnor.ai machine learning engineer Hessam Bagherinezhad, hardware engineer Saman Naderiparizi and co-founder Ali Farhadi show off a chip that uses solar-powered AI. (GeekWire Photo / Alan Boyle)

It was a big deal two and a half years ago when researchers shrunk down an image-recognition program to fit onto a $5 computer the size of a candy bar — and now it’s an even bigger deal for Xnor.ai to re-engineer its artificial intelligence software to fit onto a solar-powered computer chip.

“To us, this is as big as when somebody invented a light bulb,” Xnor.ai’s co-founder, Ali Farhadi, said at the company’s Seattle headquarters.

Like the candy-bar-sized, Raspberry Pi-powered contraption, the camera-equipped chip flashes a signal when it sees a person standing in front of it. But the chip itself isn’t the point. The point is that Xnor.ai has figured out how to blend stand-alone, solar-powered hardware and edge-based AI to turn its vision of “artificial intelligence at your fingertips” into a reality.

“This is a key technology milestone, not a product,” Farhadi explained.

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By Alan Boyle

Mastermind of Cosmic Log, contributing editor at GeekWire, author of "The Case for Pluto: How a Little Planet Made a Big Difference," president of the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing. Check out "About Alan Boyle" for more fun facts.

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