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IIT Bombay alumnus leads IBM's efforts to create chip emulating human brain

A research team at IBM led by India-born Dharmendra Modha, has announced success in developing an experimental chip that is very close to emulating the human brain’s abilities for perception, action and cognition. In practical terms, this could lead to technology that demands significantly less power consumption and space than what is demanded by today’s computers.

Veering away from the traditional concepts in designing and building computers, which is known as von Neumann computing to a more power-efficient architecture that has no set programming, integrates memory with processor, and mimics the brain’s event-driven, distributed and parallel processing.

The IBM-led project combines principles from neuroscience supercomputing and nanotechnology .

The cognitive computing chips replicate the phenomena between spiking neurons and synapses in biological systems, such as the brain, through advanced algorithms and silicon circuitry. Two prototype chips have already been fabricated and are currently undergoing testing. 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 brain.

IBM and its university collaborators also announced they have been awarded approximately $21 million in new funding from the Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) for Phase 2 of the Systems of Neuromorphic Adaptive Plastic Scalable Electronics (SyNAPSE) project. The goal 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.
While they contain no biological elements, IBM’s first cognitive computing prototype chips use digital silicon circuits inspired by neurobiology to make up what is referred to as a “neurosynaptic core” with integrated memory (replicated synapses), computation (replicated neurons) and communication (replicated axons).
IBM has two working prototype designs. Both cores were fabricated in 45 nm SOI-CMOS and contain 256 neurons. One core contains 262,144 programmable synapses and the other contains 65,536 learning synapses. The IBM team has successfully demonstrated simple applications like navigation, machine vision, pattern recognition, associative memory and classification.
“This is a major initiative to move beyond the von Neumann paradigm that has been ruling computer architecture for more than half a century,” said Dharmendra Modha, manager and lead researcher of the Cognitive Computing group at IBM’s Almaden Research Centre, “Future applications of computing will increasingly demand functionality that is not efficiently delivered by the traditional architecture. These chips are another significant step in the evolution of computers from calculators to learning systems, signalling the beginning of a new generation of computers and their applications in business, science and government.

Modha has pioneered work in Artificial Intelligence and Mind Simulation. In November 2009, he announced at a supercomputing conference that his team had written a program that simulated a cat brain. A B.Tech. in Computer Science and Engineering from IIT Mumbai,, Modha obtained his Ph. D. in Electrical and Computer Engineering from University of California at San Diago in 1995.

He is the Principal Investigator for the DARPA SyNAPSE project that brought together IBM researchers in US,Switzerland and India; Stanford University, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Cornell University, Columbia University, and University of California at Merced to embark upon the ambitious quest of cognitive computing to engineer intelligent business machines by reverse-engineering the computational function of the brain and delivering it in a small, energy efficient chip. Over the last two decades, he has founded two start-up companies, been issued 26 U.S. patents and has authored over 40 publications in international journals and conferences. ( personal and professional details from Wikipedia)


While they contain no biological elements, IBM’s first cognitive computing prototype chips use digital silicon circuits inspired by neurobiology to make up what is referred to as a “neurosynaptic core” with integrated memory (replicated synapses), computation (replicated neurons) and communication (replicated axons).
IBM has two working prototype designs. Both cores were fabricated in 45 nm SOI-CMOS and contain 256 neurons. One core contains 262,144 programmable synapses and the other contains 65,536 learning synapses. The IBM team has successfully demonstrated simple applications like navigation, machine vision, pattern recognition, associative memory and classification.

Tech primer: Begin here on Cognitive Computing: For more than half a century, computers have been little better than calculators with storage structures and programmable memory, a model that scientists have continually aimed to improve.
Comparatively, the human brain—the world's most sophisticated computer—can perform complex tasks rapidly and accurately using the same amount of energy as a 20 watt light bulb in a space equivalent to a 2 litre soda bottle.
Making sense of real-time input flowing in at a dizzying rate is a Herculean task for today's computers, but would be natural for a brain-inspired system. Using advanced algorithms and silicon circuitry, cognitive computers learn through experiences, find correlations, create hypotheses, and remember—and learn from—the outcomes.
Future chips will be able to ingest information from complex, real-world environments through multiple sensory modes and act through multiple motor modes in a coordinated, context-dependent manner. For example, a cognitive computing system monitoring the world's water supply could contain a network of sensors and actuators that constantly record and report metrics such as temperature, pressure, wave height, acoustics and ocean tide, and issue tsunami warnings based on its decision making. Similarly, a grocer stocking shelves could use an instrumented glove that monitors sights, smells, texture and temperature to flag bad or contaminated produce. Making sense of real-time input flowing at an ever-dizzying rate would be a Herculean task for today’s computers, but would be natural for a brain-inspired system.

“Imagine traffic lights that can integrate sights, sounds and smells and flag unsafe intersections before disaster happens or imagine cognitive co-processors that turn servers, laptops, tablets, and phones into machines that can interact better with their environments,” says Dr. Modha.

Wired .com interview with Dr Modha: http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2011/08/ibm-synapse-cognitive-computer/
Dr Modha’s page at IBM http://www.almaden.ibm.com/cs/people/dmodha/   

See a video on our home page for a few days, explaining the IBM Cognitive computing project

Aug 21 2011




    


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IIT Bombay alumnus leads IBM's efforts to create chip emulating human brain
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