Towards artificial general intelligence with hybrid Tianjic chip architecture


There are two general approaches to developing artificial general intelligence (AGI)1: computer-science-oriented and neuroscience-oriented. Because of the fundamental differences in their formulations and coding schemes, these two approaches rely on distinct and incompatible platforms2,3,4,5,6,7,8, retarding the development of AGI. A general platform that could support the prevailing computer-science-based artificial neural networks as well as neuroscience-inspired models and algorithms is highly desirable. Here we present the Tianjic chip, which integrates the two approaches to provide a hybrid, synergistic platform. The Tianjic chip adopts a many-core architecture, reconfigurable building blocks and a streamlined dataflow with hybrid coding schemes, and can not only accommodate computer-science-based machine-learning algorithms, but also easily implement brain-inspired circuits and several coding schemes. Using just one chip, we demonstrate the simultaneous processing of versatile algorithms and models in an unmanned bicycle system, realizing real-time object detection, tracking, voice control, obstacle avoidance and balance control. Our study is expected to stimulate AGI development by paving the way to more generalized hardware platforms.

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Fig. 1: The hybrid approach to the development of AGI.
Fig. 2: Design of the Tianjic chip.
Fig. 3: Summary of chip evaluation and modelling.
Fig. 4: Demonstration of multimodal integration on a Tianjic chip for an unmanned bicycle.

Data availability

The datasets that we used for benchmarks are publicly available, as described in the text and the relevant references38,41,42,44,45,46. The training methods are provided in the relevant references36,37,47,54. The experimental setups for simulations and measurements are detailed in the text. Other data that support the findings of this study are available from the corresponding author on reasonable request.

Code availability

The codes used for the software tool chain and the bicycle demonstration are available from the corresponding author on reasonable request.


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We thank B. Zhang, R. S. Williams, J. Zhu, J. Guan, X. Zhang, W. Dou, F. Zeng and X. Hu for thoughtful discussions; L. Tian, Q. Zhao, M. Chen, J. Feng, D. Wang, X. Lin, H. Cui, Y. Hu and Y. Yu contributing to experiments; H. Xu for coordinating experiments; and MLink for design assistance. This work was supported by projects of the National Natural Science Foundation of China (NSFC; 61836004, 61327902 and 61475080); the Brain-Science Special Program of Beijing (grant Z181100001518006); and the Suzhou-Tsinghua innovation leading program (2016SZ0102).

Author information




J.P., L.D., S.S., M.Z., Y.Z., Shuang Wu and G.W. were in charge of, respectively, the principles of chip design, chip design, the principles of neuron computing, the unmanned bicycle system, software, implementation of Tianjic in the unmanned bicycle system, and chip testing. J.P., L.D., G.W., Z.W. and Y.Z. carried out chip development. Shuang Wu, G.W., Z.Z., Z.Y. and Yujie Wu worked on the unmanned bicycle experiment. Y.Z. and W. Han worked on software development. Yujie Wu, Shuang Wu and G.L. developed the algorithm. J.P., L.D., S.S., Si Wu, C.M., F.C., W. He, R.Z. and L.S. contributed to the analysis and interpretation of results. All of the authors contributed to discussion of architecture design principles. L.D., W. He, R.Z., S.S., Z.W. and L.S. wrote the manuscript with input from all authors. L.S. proposed the concept of hybrid architecture and supervised the whole project.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Luping Shi.

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Peer review information Nature thanks Meng-Fan (Marvin) Chang and the other, anonymous, reviewer(s) for their contribution to the peer review of this work.

Extended data figures and tables

Extended Data Fig. 1 Overview of the FCore architecture.

We adopted a fully digital design. The axon module acts as a data buffer to store the inputs and the outputs. Synapses are designed to store on-chip weights and are pinned close to the dendrite for better memory locality. The dendrite is an integration engine that contains multipliers and accumulators. The soma is a computation unit for neuronal transformations. IntraFCore and interFCore communications are wired by a router, which supports arbitrary topology. Act_Fun, activation function; A/s, activation (ANN mode)/spike (SNN mode); B_L, bias/leakage; In BUF, input buffer; Inhibit Reg, inhibition register; In(Out)_L/E/W/S/N, local/eastern/western/southern/northern input(output); Lat_Acc, lateral accumulation; MEM, memory; MUX, multiplexer; Out_Copy, output copy; Out_Trans, output transmission; P_MEM, parameter memory; Spike_Gen, spike generator; V_MEM, membrane potential memory; X & Index, axon output and weight index. The numbers in or above memories indicate memory size; ‘b’ represents bit(s).

Extended Data Fig. 2 Fabrication of the Tianjic chip and testing boards.

a, Chip layout and images of the Tianjic chip. b, Testing boards equipped with a single Tianjic chip or a chip array (5 × 5 size).

Extended Data Fig. 3 Throughput-aware unfolded mapping and resource-aware folded mapping.

a, Unfolded mapping converts all topologies into a fully connected (FC) structure without reusing data. In CANN: Norm, normalization; r, firing rate; V, membrane potential. In LSTM: f/i/o, forget/input/output gate output; g, input activation; h/c, hidden/cell state; t, time step; x, external input. b, Folded mapping folds the network along the row dimension of feature maps (FMs) for resource reuse. We note that the weights are still unfolded along the column dimension to maintain parallelism, and wide FMs can be split into multiple slices, which are allocated into different FCores for concurrent processing. r0/1/2, row 0/1/2.

Extended Data Fig. 4 Chip measurements in different modes.

a, Power consumption in ANN-only mode at different voltages and frequencies. Here the ‘compute ratio’ is the duty ratio for computation, that is, the ratio of computation time/(computation time + idle time). The phase on the x- axis denotes the execution time phase of FCore. b, Power consumption in SNN-only mode with different rates of input spikes. c, Membrane potential of output neurons in SNN mode. Information was represented in a rate-coding scheme by counting the number of spikes during a given time period.

Extended Data Fig. 5 Performance comparison and routing profiling.

a, FCore placements in six layers (split into seven execution layers); the numbers within the image denote the numbers of FCores used. b, Comparison of the performance of different neural network modes. Acc., accuracy. c, Power consumption for each layer. d, Average number of received routing packets per FCore in each layer. e, Average number of sent packets per FCore across time phases. f, Distribution of total transfer packets for each FCore. The oval with the arrow emphasizes the difference in packet amount between the SNN-only mode and the hybrid mode.

Extended Data Fig. 6 Overheads of the Tianjic chip during the bicycle experiment.

a, Placement of FCores in different network models. Numbers refer to the number of FCores used. b, Measured power consumption under different tasks and at different voltages. The Tianjic chip typically worked at 0.9 V during the bicycle demonstration, and the power consumption was about 400 mW.

Extended Data Fig. 7 Neural state machine.

a, State transition in the bicycle task. b, NSM architecture. The NSM is composed of three subgroups of neurons: state, transfer and output neurons. There are three matrices that determine the connections between different neurons: the trigger, state-transfer and output matrices.

Extended Data Table 1 A unified description of neural network models
Extended Data Table 2 Comparison of the Tianjic chip with existing specialized platforms
Extended Data Table 3 Model topologies and input/output descriptions for networks applied in the bicycle demonstration

Supplementary information

Supplementary Video 1

Unmanned bicycle equipped with Tianjic chip for real-time object detection, tracking, voice recognition, obstacle avoidance, and balance control. The video consists of two scenes. In Scene 1, the bicycle rides over a speed bump, then it follows the voice commands to change direction or adjust speed. In Scene 2, the bicycle detects and tracks a moving human, and avoids obstacles when necessary.

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Pei, J., Deng, L., Song, S. et al. Towards artificial general intelligence with hybrid Tianjic chip architecture. Nature 572, 106–111 (2019).

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