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'Quantum-inspired' laser computing is more effective than both supercomputing and quantum computing, startup claims

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Engineers have developed an optical computer, about the size of a desktop PC, that can purportedly execute complex artificial intelligence (AI) calculations in nanoseconds, rivaling the performance of both quantum and classical supercomputers.

The computer, dubbed the LPU100, uses an array of 100 lasers to perform calculations through a process called laser interference, LightSolver representatives said in a March 19 statement.

In this process, an optimization problem that requires solving is encoded onto physical obstacles on the lasers' paths using a device called a prograMMAble spatial light modulator. These obstacles prompt the lasers to adjust their behavior to minimize energy loss, similar to how water naturally finds the easiest route downhill by following the path of least resistance.

By quickly altering their state to minimize energy waste, the lasers achieve a state of minimal energy loss. This directly corresponds to the problem's solution.

The LPU100 then uses conventional cameras to detect and interpret these laser states, translating them into a mathematical solution to the original optimization problem.

According to the company, the LPU100 can perform complex operations such as vector-matrix multiplications — a demanding computational workload — in just 10 nanoseconds. That is hundreds of times quicker than the fastest graphics processing units (GPUs) can perform the same task.

Bob Sorensen, senior vice president of research and chief analyst for quantum computing at Hyperion Research, said in a statement that LightSolver's Technology presented "a low barrier to entry for a wide range of advanced computing users."

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