IBM (NYSE: IBM) just announced that it has created a computer chip that can mimic the functions of the human brain.
I assure you, this isn’t a teaser for another “Terminator” movie…
You see, IBM was able to digitize the brain’s processing abilities through an ingenious combination of algorithms and circuitry.
The company has already tested two of these “neurosynaptic chips” and found that they can process information on a much higher level than standard computer chips. That’s why IBM plans to make them the backbone of a new generation of “cognitive computers.”
Most importantly, this chip will change our current computing systems in two very important ways…
~ Advanced Problem Solving: The new chips will allow computers to synthesize raw information, make comparisons and complex decisions, weigh outcomes and recognize patterns and images – tasks today’s computers aren’t able to master.
In other words, these chips will allow computers to think and reason like a human being.
After reviewing IBM’s research, Richard Doherty of Envisioneering Group said, “These are building blocks for a new kind of computing… [and there’s] nothing even close” to matching the computing power of IBM’s new design.
~ Lower Power Consumption: Even though today’s computers might not be able to perform cognitive functions, they still operate a million times faster than neurons in the brain.
The problem is, speed takes a hefty toll on our energy resources. According to IBM, a personal computer consumes 500 times more energy than the “brain power” generated by its new chip.
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To put it another way, this new chip will consume one watt of electricity, which IBM equates to about 1% of the power used by a small lamp.
Coming to a Grocery Store and Intersection Near You
Currently, IBM has two of these “smart” chips in the works. And it has a few ideas for how the technology can be used.
Among the ideas are systems at grocery stores that can tell when produce has spoiled… A cognitive computer network that can monitor and record the entire world’s water supply… And computers that can better manage traffic lights at busy intersections during an accident.
But since the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has already thrown $41 million at this project (including a recent $21 million grant awarded last week), we can expect military applications to get top billing here.
So, understandably, IBM is very optimistic about the potential of this chip.
As the company says, “[The chip can] do tasks that we take for granted, like recognizing a person in an image… challenges that are extremely difficult for a computer to do… What we’re hoping is that cognitive computing will give us a whole new range of algorithms that can solve many problems… [Which would] open up a huge number of new possible innovations.”
Personally, I’m looking forward to a Roomba that will feel actual shame for missing a spot on my floor.
Either way, once IBM figures out how to effectively harness the power of our brains in real time, it’s going to completely revolutionize modern computing.