IBM Creates Cognitive Chips Modeled After The Human Brain

Brad Chacos

The Terminator movies are entertaining and all, but they forget to point out one important fact in the midst of all the cybernetic shotgunning; if Skynet is ever going to actually become self-aware, it'll probably require a drastic change in the way computers process information. Hey, James Cameron – don't sweat it. IBM has your back. The company just announced it's created a series of prototype "chips designed to emulate the brain’s abilities for perception, action and cognition." We suspect they'll also be the key to the eventual robot revolution.

From the company's press release : "IBM’s first cognitive computing prototype chips use digital silicon circuits inspired by neurobiology to make up what is referred to as a “neurosynaptic core” with integrated memory (replicated synapses), computation (replicated neurons) and communication (replicated axons)."

The two prototypes created by IBM contain 256 "neurons." One core sports 262,144 "programmable synapses," while the other chip packs 65,536 "learning synapses." The cognitive chips have already been able to learn and remember simple tasks like navigation, pattern memorization and associative memory. IBM's eventual goal is to create a chip with ten billion neurons and a hundred trillion synapses.

The chips, which were created as part of the " SyNAPSE " project, use considerably less energy than traditional bus-based configurations. "This architecture represents a critical shift away from traditional von Neumann computing to a potentially more power-efficient architecture that has no set programming, integrates memory with processor, and mimics the brain’s event-driven, distributed and parallel processing," IBM boasts.

That's the first sign of the apocalypse. The second? DARPA just gave IBM and the four universities collaborating on the project $21 million to help fund Phase 2 of the research.

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