BrainChip's Neuromorphic Akida Goes Orbital as Optimus-1 Takes the ANT61 Brain Computer Into Space

Launched into orbit this week, the ANT61 Brain aims to prove neuromorphic computing's potential for edge AI off-planet.

Neuromorphic computing specialist BrainChip, which claims its Akida processor can deliver more efficient artificial intelligence at the edge, is now trialing its technology somewhere new: space, having worked with ANT61 to place its technology into the Space Machines Company's Optimus-1 spacecraft that launched into low Earth orbit this week.

"Space is a tough and unforgiving environment and needs innovative technologies like BrainChip's Akida and ANT61's Brain [computer] to deliver efficient processing and remote learning to adapt to ever-changing environments and mission-critical situations," claims Mark Ramsey, chief operating officer of the Space Machines Company, of the launch. "These innovations can ultimately support Space Machines Company’s vision to provide roadside assistance in orbit."

"We've teamed up with BrainChip to create autonomous infrastructure maintenance robots that leverage an AI-driven ‘Brain’ to perform complex repair tasks in the unforgiving vacuum of space,” Mikhail Asavkin, chief executive officer and founder of ANT61, adds. “This launch is an important milestone towards that goal. We plan to start operating the world's first neuromorphic space-grade computer in two months after the launch."

The ANT61 Brain is equipped with an AKD1000, a first-generation version of BrainChip's Akida — a novel processor platform designed for high-performance yet low-power machine learning and artificial intelligence at the edge. Based on the principle of neuromorphic computing, the Akida architecture is inspired by the neurons of the human brain and in its most recent second-generation incarnation introduced support for accelerating vision transformer (ViT) workloads.

"This has been a great collaborative learning experience with ANT61, and we congratulate them along with Space Machines Company and others involved with the Optimus-1 launch on a phenomenal achievement," says Sean Hehir, BrainChip's chief executive officer. "As a company that is cultivating a heritage of empowering highly efficient, intelligent sensing and inference devices, we are excited to add space heritage with this launch, but we’re just scratching the surface as our second generation will enable greater support for future mission-critical space operation. The future of autonomy in space is bright."

The space mission comes two weeks after BrainChip opened pre-orders for the Akida Edge AI Box, an all-in-one development platform built in partnership with VVDN Technologies and designed to provide a quick-start for anyone looking to experiment with neuromorphic computing. Featuring an NXP i.MX 8M Plus system-on-chip plus the same Akida AKD1000 processor as the ANT61 Brain, the Akida Edge AI Box is priced at $799 and due to start shipping by the middle of this year.

More information on the Akida platform is available on the BrainChip website.

Main article image courtesy of SpaceX.

Gareth Halfacree
Freelance journalist, technical author, hacker, tinkerer, erstwhile sysadmin. For hire:
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