Liz Cirulli (Credit: Morgan Henderson)

The brain chip

Staff Writer

All computer chips made today rely on the same general architecture that was outlined nearly 70 years ago. This architecture separates the two primary tasks a chip needs to carry out—processing and memory—into different regions and continuously communicates data back and forth. Though this strategy works well for crunching numbers and running spreadsheets, it's much less efficient for handling tasks that manage vast amounts of data, such as vision and language processing. But in recent years, researchers around the globe have been pursuing a new approach called neuromorphic computing. On page 668 of this issue, researchers at IBM and Cornell University report creating the world's first production-scale neuromorphic computing chip. The novel approach to hardware is made up of 5.4 billion transistors that are wired to emulate a brain with 1 million "neurons" that talk to one another via 256 million "synapses." The novel chips could revolutionize efforts in everything from helping computers and robots sense their environment to offering new tools to help blind people navigate their surroundings.

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Posted in Math, Technology