IBM’s ‘Rodent Brain’

The amount of research being done on artificial intelligence is skyrocketing. IBM has been working with DARPA’s, “Systems of Neuromorphic Adaptive Plastic Scalable Electronics” or SyNAPSE since 2008. Its not quite a digital brain but it’s inspired by the way a rat’s brain is wired. Dharmendra Modha, the lead researcher sees a new future where there are the logical computers of today and the synaptic brain computers of tomorrow.


Their goal was to develop computing systems that function less like computers we have now and more like the neurons in our brains. They have finally unveiled their system named TrueNorth to the public in the form of a three week long “boot camp” training session for academic and government researchers.


At the boot camp they showed how the non-traditional works as well as how to build apps using them. Because they are built differently they require their own programming language. The computers work together like the way the left side of your brain works with your right.


TrueNorth uses modular chips that are strung together essentially building an artificial neural network. The version showed had 48 million connections which is about the same computing capacity as a rat’s brain. The system is designed to run deep learning algorithms like Facebook’s facial recognition but with using significantly less power.


When it comes to the numbers the TrueNorth architecture uses 70 Miliwatts of energy to power 5.4 billion transistors. For context, modern processors use 35 to 140 watts to power just 1.4 billion transistors. Modha said, “The best way to predict the future is to invent it,” The technology is still long away from commercial use but the plan to create a similar architecture that has the computing power of the human brain is on track for 2020.


TrueNorth is just another technology evolving our world. Here at SparkNET we are constantly talking about these technologies and how they will shape our future. Its fascinating to imagine what the future will bring.

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