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IBM Scientists Show Blueprints for Brain-Like Computing

Technology Review (08/08/13) Aviva Hope Rutkin

IBM researchers have created TrueNorth, a computer architecture designed to work more like the human brain. The architecture relies on complex simulations that could lead to a new generation of machines that function more like biological brains. The researchers used TrueNorth to demonstrate a way to use chips with neurosynaptic cores for specific tasks, such as building a more efficient biologically-inspired artificial retina. Unlike conventional computer architectures, TrueNorth stores and processes information in a distributed, parallel way, like the neurons and synapses in a brain. The researchers also developed software that runs on a conventional supercomputer but simulates the functioning of a massive network of neurosynaptic cores. The digital neurons mimic the independent nature of biological neurons, developing different response times and firing patterns in response to input from neighboring neurons. TrueNorth programs are written using special blueprints called corelets, each of which specifies the basic functioning of a network of neurosynaptic cores. TrueNorth comes with a library of 150 pre-designed corelets, each for a specific task. The researchers say the technology could eventually be incorporated into smartphones and automobiles. “We are extending the boundaries of what computers can do efficiently,” says IBM’s Dharmendra S. Modha, the project’s lead researcher.

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