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New computer chips inspired by human brain will change everything

New computer chips inspired by human brain will change everything
PHOTO COURTESY OF SHUTTERSTOCK

There's hope for the Scarecrow! The new era of tech innovation is competing to create machines, devices and programs that think just like us.

Testing begins today at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California on a $1 million computer designed to mimic the human brain. At its heart is an IBM chip called TrueNorth. Packed with 5.4 billion transistors, this microprocessor simulates how millions of neurons fire through the synapses of our brains.

Unlike modern day chips that run our PCs, laptops and phones, TrueNorth can't operate a Web server or write columns in an Excel spreadsheet. It's designed for what AI engineers call "Deep Learning" or next generation tasks such as image recognition or the ability to outwit the likes of super champion Ken Jennings on the TV show "Jeopardy."

"Brains, somehow, despite fairly simple-looking components, are able to solve some very complex problems," explained Dharmendra Modha, who has been working on TrueNorth for over 12 years. "The race to get the architecture of this new era is on. And, frankly, we're leading it."

As companies like Qualcomm and Microsoft race with IBM to make our smart devices smarter, we may notice the result of "thinking chips" in everything from our cars to apps that might read and reply to email for us.

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