A team of IBM researchers, led by an Indian-American scientist, has claimed to have developed a pair of artificial computer chips that can, in some ways, “emulate the brain’s abilities for perception, action and cognition.”
These chips, mimicking some of the brain’s functions, could be building blocks for next generation cognitive computers that “are expected to learn through experiences, find correlations, create hypotheses, and remember — and learn from — the outcomes, mimicking the brain’s structural and synaptic plasticity”, according to an IBM release.
The two prototype working designs, unveiled on Thursday, are not biological in nature but use digital silicon circuits influenced by neurobiology. The project is lead by Indian-American scientist Dharmendra Modha, who is originally from Porbander and graduated from IIT-Mumbai.
In an interview, Modha, who is Manager, Cognitive Computing at IBM’s Almaden research facility in California’s Silicon Valley, did not put a timeframe to when computers based on simulated-brain architecture would go onstream but said, “It’s inevitable though unpredictable today.”
The project has also attracted $21 million in funding from the U.S. Department of Defense’s Defense Advance Research Projects Agency or DARPA. Known as SYNAPSE, short for Systems of Neuromorphic Adaptive Plastic Scalable Electronics, the project brings together a multi-disciplinary team that includes not just IBM Research scientists, but also those from Columbia University, Cornell University, University of California, Merced and University of Wisconsin, Madison.
Modha, who has been with IBM since 1997, said, “At heart, today’s computers are calculators, they can do fast, analytical, rational computations.
They are not good at the kinds of tasks human beings are very good at. We have the social network of the brain capable of amazing feats.”
The “neurosynaptic core” attempts to replicate the brain’s cognitive processors, with integrated memory for synapses, computation for neurons and communication for axons.