Google reports that it is now using AI to build its future Tensor Processing Units. The company has published some work in this area about a year ago, but today’s announcement indicates the technology has matured. Alexis Mirhoseini led the project.
The semiconductor industry has invested in various tools that automate parts of the design process for decades. Back when a CPU had 10,000 to 100,000 transistors, hand-drawn floor plans and circuit layouts were the only way to build a chip. Today, much of the design work is automated, though engineers may still be used in specific, critical paths.
Google is claiming it can adopt AI to help with floorplanning. The floorplan of a microprocessor — literally, its physical layout — has historically been a difficult task to automate. Even with the aid of modern software tools, laying out a new floorplan can take weeks. Over many decades, a great deal of work has gone into building software to better handle this complex problem, but humans are still integral to the process. Now, Google is claiming its new AI can do the job in a matter of hours.
Mirhoseini et al. estimate that the number of possible configurations (the state space) of macro blocks in the floorplanning problems solved in their study is about 102,500. By comparison, the state space of the black and white stones used in the board game Go is just 10360.