A Chip With More Muscle

For more than half a century, computers have processed information using a language of zeros and ones. Lyric Semiconductor, a start-up in Cambridge, Massachusetts, has developed a computer chip that also uses values that fall between zero and one. As a result, the chip can process information using probabilities, considering many possible answers to find the best fit. The powerful chip could speed up online searches, spam filtering, and even the analysis of human genome sequencing. Lyric's first product, a chip that cuts down on errors made by flash drives, is expected to appear in consumer electronics like laptops within two years. The company is also working on a secret project for the Department of Defense, which is one of its funders.

Playing the odds
The rectangle in the center of this chip casing, shown here magnified about 400 times, contains Lyric's probability processing technology.

If the chip fits
Lyric's chips could reduce the size of computers, because fewer of them are needed to process a given amount of information.