Analog Neuromorphics: Tools and Techniques

Virtual 2021 Telluride Neuromorphic Engineering Workshop Track

Jennifer Hasler Terry Stewart
Georgia Institute of Technology University of Waterloo

This topic integrates analog circuit design and analog computing and high-level tools to enable many designers towards building neuromorphic engineering systems.

Our goal is to build an analog neuromorphic hardware community fully immersed in developing the tools and infrastructure needed to develop mature analog neuromorphic systems.

Summary: This topic area builds an analog neuromorphic hardware community fully immersed in developing the tools and infrastructure needed to develop mature analog neuromorphic systems. High-level tools enable low-level principles of analog design towards neuromorphic system design. New tool development, as well as new hardware development, supports large-scale analog iand neuromorphic systems. Tools are essential for a wide user base to use neuromorphic hardware that is often programmable (e.g. FG devices) as well as configurable (e.g. large-scale Field Programmable Analog Arrays (FPAA) ) for their particular application.

Neuromorphic Hardware / Software Platforms:

  • FPAA Boards with remote interfacing: The USB-interfaced FPAA boards will be utilized as a general framework to create individual circuit designs, as well as getting a vision of the capability and realistic viewpoint of working with current neuromorphic hardware.
  • Braindrop boards (remote?)
  • Nengo and Nengo-Braindrop


FG = Floating-Gate, as in FG Devices, FG Circuits, FG Systems
FPAA = large-scale Field Programmable Analog Arrays, as in SoC FPAA

Workshop Summary : We will have multiple sessions to teach hardware interfacing (e.g. FPAA devices), as well as teaching sessions to understand core tool concepts, as well as fundamental circuit concepts.

  • July 28: Overview of ANT Track: Terry Stewart
  • July 1: Overview Lecture: Jennifer Hasler, " Neuromorphic Hardware and Tools"
  • July 1, Discussion Session
  • July 2, Invited lecture (Kwabena Boahen):
  • more sessions TBD

Discussion sessions during Virtual Telluride three weeks

Track Lectures:
  • Underlying theory of analog design through the neuromorphic design history.
  • Tools enabling design applied towards the design, synthesis, and verification of neuromorphic systems
  • Interactive (mostly virtual) sessions enabling hand-on work with existing analog systems, via remote access to FPAAs and Braindrop, low-level access and high-level programming (e.g. Nengo to program Braindrop), as well as access to simulating these analog systems.

Potential Projects

Projects: apply analog circuit and systems to solve neuromorphic application problems. Some projects emphasize on function approximation / classification, such as command-word / keyword spotting. Other projects further develop the existing tools to better support these particular applications.

  • Text classification using FPAA / Braindrop / SPICE simulation
  • Characterizing the space of functions that can be well-approximated with different hardware (and how adjusting that hardware would affect that space of functions)
  • Expanding an analog standard cell library
  • Developing higher level abstraction tools for neuromorphic hardware programming (e.g. FPAA, Braindrop)

Videos and Reading on Hardware, Tools, and Neuromorphic Design

Neuromorphic Overview and Roadmap

IEEE Spectrum (2017), Neuromorphic Comp (2013).

FPAA Devices, Systems, and Tools

Short videos:

  • FPAA History, Dev, Classification, and Directions
  • Historical perspective on FG for Neuro Eng:
  • FPAA Enabling Physical Computing
  • Open-Source FPAA tools
  • Potential FPAA Capabilities:
  • Starting point on analog standard-cell libraries

FPAA Workshop material

FPAA Tool Download : Ubuntu VM

Core Reading Material

  • FPAA Overview (IEEE Proceedings 2020).
  • Open-source FPAA tool overview (WOSET 2020).
  • First System on Chip (SoC) FPAA IC (TVLSI 2016).
  • On-chip VMM+WTA learning classifier (ECAS 2018).
  • FPAA Remote System (JPLEA 2016)
  • Additional resources

Introduction to Analog IC Design

Neuromorphic Design using Nengo