All-to-all communications with lasers

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I just can’t help picturing Dr. Evil.

Anyway, the WSJ reported on Friday that startup Lightfleet, Inc. is building a new multiprocessor architecture that replaces the wires that are SO 20th century for connecting processors with lasers.

Each microprocessor is installed with a laser transmitter and a set of devices that receive beams of light carrying messages from other chips. The light is reflected off the mirror and passes through focusing lenses to the receivers.

Messages from each processor, or any combination of them, are simultaneously sent to all the other microprocessors. Each receiver only picks out the messages intended for it, because of special addressing information sent with the light beams.

The design is particularly efficient at sending “all-to-all” messages between chips in a system, said Bill Dress, a Lightfleet senior scientist and co-inventor of the technology. Because the system sends light through air, Lightfleet avoids the need for wiring and associated switching circuitry and software, he adds.

As a mere mortal, I find this idea interesting. When Steve Scott isn’t excited, though, it makes me nervous.


  1. Steve Scott’s take on this shouldn’t be surprising; Cray Research killed Steve Chen’s MP project, which reportedly was to use optics between chips, way back in 1989.