IBM Builds Cognitive Chips That Can Emulate The Human Brain

IBM builds cognitive chips that emulate the human brain
August 23, 2011

IBM (NYSE:IBM) researchers have build experimental chips that emulate the perception, action and cognition of brains. The chips aim to drastically lower power consumption and form factors in future "cognitive computers."

The first 2 prototype chips -- which contain no biological elements -- have been fabbed at IBM's Fishkill, NY fab and are undergoing tests at IBM's Yorktown Heights, NY and San Jose, CA research labs. Both prototype cores were fabricated in 45nm silicon on insulator-complementary metal oxide semiconductor (SOI-CMOS) and contain 256 neurons. The digital silicon circuits inspired by neurobiology create a "neurosynaptic core" with integrated memory (replicated synapses), computation (replicated neurons) and communication (replicated axons). One core contains 262,144 programmable synapses; one contains 65,536 learning synapses. They perform simple applications like navigation, machine vision, associative memory, pattern recognition, classification, etc.
IBM's "neurosynaptic computing chips" recreate the phenomena between spiking neurons and synapses in biological systems through advanced algorithms and silicon circuitry. Cognitive computers will be programmed by experiences, finding correlations, creating hypotheses, and remembering the outcomes. The cognitive system will analyze complex information from multiple sensory modalities simultaneously, dynamically rewiring itself as it interacts with its environment. IBM's cognitive computing architecture of on-chip lightweight cores create a single integrated system of hardware and software.

Under the Systems of Neuromorphic Adaptive Plastic Scalable Electronics (SyNAPSE) multi-year project, IBM combined nanoscience, neuroscience and supercomputing expertise in a cognitive computing initiative with university collaborators. The US Department of Defense's Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) awarded the team about $21 million in new funding for Phase 2 of SyNAPSE. The IBM team successfully completed Phases 0 and 1.
These brain-inspired chips move beyond "more than half a century" of von Neumann paradigm computer architectures, said Dharmendra Modha, project leader for IBM Research. The cognitive system has no set programming, integrates memory with processor, and mimics brains' event-driven, distributed and parallel processing.

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