Reprogrammable chips could enable instant gadget upgrades

April 18, 2011 | Source: Technology Review
Tabula Chip

Reconfigurable chip can implement new designs to allow hardware upgrades (credit: Tabula)

A new low-cost type of microchip can be reconfigured on-the-fly to implement an improved hardware design as soon as it becomes available, similar to software updates.

The new chips from startup Tabula are a cheaper, more powerful competitor to field programmable gate array (FPGA) chips, which allow for prototyping a design before making a conventional fixed microchip.

Tabula’s┬áreprogrammable chips are considerably smaller than FPGAs; one circuit level behaves like eight different ones stacked up.

Tabula’s chips cycle up to eight different layouts at up to 1.6 billion times per second (1.6 Gigahertz). Signals on the chip encounter those different designs in turn, as if they were hopping up a level onto a different chip entirely.