Dynamically Reconfigurable Hardware for Evolving Bio-Inspired Architectures

Dynamically Reconfigurable Hardware for Evolving Bio-Inspired Architectures

Andres Upegui (Haute Ecole d’Ingénierie et de Gestion du Canton de Vaud, Switzerland)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-798-0.ch001
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During the last few years, reconfigurable computing devices have experienced an impressive development in their resource availability, speed, and configurability. Currently, commercial FPGAs offer the possibility of self-reconfiguring by partially modifying their configuration bit-string, providing high architectural flexibility, while guaranteeing high performance. On the other hand, we have bio-inspired hardware, a large research field taking inspiration from living beings in order to design hardware systems, which includes diverse approaches like evolvable hardware, neural hardware, and fuzzy hardware. Living beings are well known for their high adaptability to environmental changes, featuring very flexible adaptations at several levels. Bio-inspired hardware systems require such flexibility to be provided by the hardware platform on which the system is implemented. Even though some commercial FPGAs provide enhanced reconfigurability features such as partial and dynamic reconfiguration, their utilization is still in the early stages and they are not well supported by FPGA vendors, thus making their inclusion difficult in existing bio-inspired systems. This chapter presents a set of methodologies and architectures for exploiting the reconfigurability advantages of current commercial FPGAs in the design of bio-inspired hardware systems. Among the presented architectures are neural networks, spiking neuron models, fuzzy systems, cellular automata and Random Boolean Networks.
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Hardware engineers have drawn inspiration from biology for designing and building bio-inspired architectures. A very important issue is the hardware platform supporting them. It is highly desirable for the platform to provide flexibility, scalability, and autonomy. Bringing flexibility to hardware devices is not trivial. An electronic circuit can be seen as a set of basic components (transistors, capacitors, resistances, etc) interconnected in a certain way. Modifying such a circuit implies replacing some components or modifying some of its connections. Performing these modifications would be unfeasible without the concept of reconfigurability.

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