IBM today unveiled a “neurosynaptic” computer chip which mimics the human brain in an unprecedented way and is seen as a major milestone towards a new era of cognitive computers.
The Systems of Neuromorphic Adaptive Plastic Scalable Electronics chip, fortunately known by the acronym of the SyNAPSE chip, is designed to copy the interactions of neurons and synapses in the human brain and has 1 million programmable neurons, and 256 million programmable synapses.
The power of the chip is still just a poor imitation of the original. The human brain has 100 billion neurons about 150 trillion synapses.
But the new chip, which has 4096 cores, is a major step up from the single-core prototype IBM developed in 2011.
The chip is the size of a stamp and uses the same amount of power needed to charge up a hearing aid. Yet IBM says the technology in cognitive computers powered by chips like these could transform the way we live.
The advantage of cognitive computing over traditional number crunching computing is that the cognitive chips use algorithms that work out problems based on trial and error and past knowledge.
IBM says possible uses for the chips would be in environmental monitoring, from spotting bush fires to tsunami warnings, and glasses that would help visually impaired people navigate their environment. IBM has been working with researchers from Cornell Tech and iniLabs on the SyNAPSE chip project which has been funded by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.
The announcement of the chip breakthrough was made today in the journal Science.