Plug in a USB Stick and you have a neural network

All technologies are huge, bulky and expensive at first, and over time, they become smaller, denser and more affordable. Decades ago we had computers that filled rooms, now we have more powerful ones smaller than a credit card.

And neural networks seem to be following the same trajectory, because Movidius, a chipmaker specializing in designing such chips, has announced the Fathom: A neural network that plugs into your computer.

It looks like a USB Stick, and once you plug it into your computer, run the Movidius tool and let it run networks defined in Caffe or Tensorflow, the Fathom will start crunching numbers on its Myriad 2 MA2450 VPU and 512MB of LPDDR3 RAM. Now you may be wondering how exactly would such a small device be able to perform better than your computer, and the answer lies in the fact that the Fathom has a chip that is unlike anything in your computer. It is a specialized chip that can crunch a lot of numbers while sipping very little power.

It works similar to a USB Asic Miner, in that it plugs into the computer, does the grunt work independently and then returns the output to the computer.

Movidius also says that the Fathom could be used to test neural networks, and once tests are completed, they could be deployed on more powerful systems.

Of course, the Fathom won’t be as powerful as most other neural networks, which use large server farms to perform complex calculations. But limitations are something that the hobbyist community is used to. A device like the Fathom could prove to be incredibly useful, if it is priced right.

Speaking of the price, the Fathom’s pricing hasn’t been announced. But Movidius claims that it won’t be more than $100, putting it firmly into hobbyist territory.

What do you think?




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