Chips capable of mimicking human thought process developed

Researchers at the US technology firm built two prototype chips that process data more like the way humans digest information than the ordinary chips that currently power PCs and supercomputers, the Daily Mail reported.

The new chips, which are the results of a six-year-long project that involved 100 researchers, offer further evidence of the growing importance of "parallel processing" which is important for rendering graphics and crunching large amounts of data, the researchers said.

According to them, the uses of the IBM chips so far are prosaic, such as steering a simulated car through a maze, or playing Pong.

It may be a decade or longer before the chips make their way out of the lab and into actual products, they said.

But what is important is not what the chips are doing, but how they are doing it, said Giulio Tononi, a professor of psychiatry at the University of Wisconsin at Madison who worked with IBM on the project.

He said that the chips' ability to adapt to types of information that it wasn't specifically programmed to expect is a key feature.

"There's a lot of work to do still, but the most important thing is usually the first step and this is not one step, it's a few steps," Prof Tononi said.

It is expected that the techniques being explored by IBM and other companies around "cognitive computing" could lead to chips that are better able to adapt to unexpected information.

Dharmendra Modha, project leader for IBM Research, said the new chips have parts that behave like digital "neurons" and "synapses" that make them different than other chips.
Each "core", or processing engine, has computing, communication and memory functions, he said.

He said: "You have to throw out virtually everything we know about how these chips are designed.

"The key, key, key difference really is the memory and the processor are very closely brought together. There's a massive, massive amount of parallelism."

The project is part of the same research that led to IBM's announcement in 2009 that it had simulated a cat's cerebral cortex -- the thinking part of the brain -- using a massive supercomputer.

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