Accelerator chips that use light rather than electrons to carry out computations promise to supercharge model training and inference. In theory, they could process algorithms at the speed of light — dramatically faster than today’s speediest logic-gate circuits — but so far, light’s unpredictability has foiled most attempts to emulate transistors optically.

Boston-based , though, claims it’s achieved a measure of success with its optical AI chip, which today debuts in prototype form. It says that latency is improved up to 10,000 times compared with traditional hardware, and it estimates power consumption at “orders of magnitude” lower.

The technology underpinning it has its origins in a 2017 paper coauthored by CEO Yichen Shen. Shen — then a Ph.D. student studying photonic materials at MIT under

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