IBM unveils experimental computer chips

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IBM researchers have unveiled a new generation of experimental computer chips designed to emulate the brain's abilities for perception, action and cognition. The technology could yield many orders of magnitude less power consumption and space than used in today’s computers.

IBM’s first neurosynaptic computing chips recreate the phenomena between spiking neurons and synapses in biological systems, such as the brain, through advanced algorithms and silicon circuitry. Its first two prototype chips have already been fabricated and are currently undergoing
testing.

Called cognitive computers, systems built with these chips won’t be programmed the same way traditional computers are today. Rather, cognitive computers are expected to learn through experiences, find correlations, create hypotheses, and remember – and learn from – the outcomes, mimicking the brains structural and synaptic plasticity.

To do this, IBM is combining principles from nanoscience, neuroscience and supercomputing as part of a multi-year cognitive computing initiative. The company and its university collaborators also announced they have been awarded approximately $21 million in new funding from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) for Phase 2 of the Systems of Neuromorphic Adaptive Plastic Scalable Electronics (SyNAPSE) project.

The goal of SyNAPSE is to create a system that not only analyzes complex information from multiple sensory modalities at once, but also dynamically rewires itself as it interacts with its environment – all while rivalling the brain’s compact size and low power usage. The IBM team has already successfully completed Phases 0 and 1.