Ultrafast neuromorphic photonic image processing with a VCSEL neuron

Robertson, Joshua and Kirkland, Paul and Alanis, Juan Arturo and Hejda, Matěj and Bueno, Julián and Di Caterina, Gaetano and Hurtado, Antonio (2022) Ultrafast neuromorphic photonic image processing with a VCSEL neuron. Scientific Reports, 12. 4874. ISSN 2045-2322 (https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-022-08703-1)

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The ever-increasing demand for artificial intelligence (AI) systems is underlining a significant requirement for new, AI-optimised hardware. Neuromorphic (brain-like) processors are one highly-promising solution, with photonic-enabled realizations receiving increasing attention. Among these, approaches based upon vertical cavity surface emitting lasers (VCSELs) are attracting interest given their favourable attributes and mature technology. Here, we demonstrate a hardware-friendly neuromorphic photonic spike processor, using a single VCSEL, for all-optical image edge-feature detection. This exploits the ability of a VCSEL-based photonic neuron to integrate temporally-encoded pixel data at high speed; and fire fast (100 ps-long) optical spikes upon detecting desired image features. Furthermore, the photonic system is combined with a software-implemented spiking neural network yielding a full platform for complex image classification tasks. This work therefore highlights the potential of VCSEL-based platforms for novel, ultrafast, all-optical neuromorphic processors interfacing with current computation and communication systems for use in future light-enabled AI and computer vision functionalities.