Why: Computer chips that operate with probabilities instead of binary logic could speed applications such as fraud analysis and machine vision.
Key innovation: Its microprocessor uses electronic signals to represent probabilities rather than binary 0s and 1s.
Lyric has introduced a fundamentally new kind of microchip that is based on probabilities rather than binary logic. Designed from the ground up with the help of funding from the U.S. Department of Defense's Advanced Research Projects Agency, it replaces conventional logic gates, whose inputs and outputs are 1s and 0s, with gates whose inputs and outputs can be any value in between. This allows much smaller chips to perform calculations at the same speed as conventional ones.
Probabilities and statistical analysis are at the heart of many of the most profitable software applications, such as e-commerce fraud prevention and spam filtering.
The company's first commercial offering is an error correction chip designed to make flash memory more efficient. As memory chips have gotten denser, they have also become more error-prone; with today's technology, one in every thousand bits is wrong. Lyric is offering a chip that can perform the necessary error correction calculations using only a 30th as much space and a 12th as much energy as traditional microchips.
Challenges and Next Steps:
Within three years, Lyric plans to produce prototypes of a general-purpose probability processor that could be programmed to tackle any statistical task. The company has also developed a programming platform to exploit the capabilities of Lyric's chips, but it remains to be seen whether the new approach will catch on with programmers.