During the Intel Developer Forum taking place in San Francisco, Intel presented a prototype CPU with 80 cores operating at 3.1GHz promising 1 TeraFLOP of performance in our near future. In addition to the large number of cores, Intel will be using some recently announced RAM technologies to allow massive transfers of data among the cores. Intel claims that their architecture can deliver more than a terabyte-per-second of bandwidth between the cores and a memory chip attached on the CPU.
This new multi-core CPU will bring to the desktop the kind of super computer performance that was available 10 years ago with the exception that the cost will now be dramatically smaller. Obviously, these CPUs will first find their way into server rooms of large data centers but it won’t be long before the cost is lowered and the same technology becomes available to the desktop market. Intel plans to mass produce the new chips in 5 years while its current focus is on bringing to the market their Quad Core CPUs. The latter will become available in November, 2006.
I think that such amazing progress in computing power spells good news for artificial intelligence and robotics. Other than the fact that researchers will now be able to attack larger problems at a much lower cost, many artificial intelligence, computer vision and machine learning algorithms are easily parallelizable and so researchers could easily take advantage of the multiple cores. In addition, Intel is focusing much effort in lowering the power consumption of their new CPUs which can only be good news for robotics. Lower power consumption along with hopefully an increase in battery capacity can lead to robots operating for longer periods of times in excess of the current 1-2 hours. Longer operating times will allow robots to achieve a larger variety of tasks with higher complexity.
I should point out that there is a number of AI researchers that believe that maybe we already have all the computational power that we need in order to achieve human level intelligence but what we luck is the proper methods. They might be correct. However, It is my opinion that having faster computers can help us find these methods since it will now be possible to run more experiments with significantly larger amounts of data.