Canterbury University claims ‘brain-like’ chip breakthrough

A team at the University of Canterbury claims to have developed computer chips with ‘brain-like functionality’.

The leader of the team that developed the chips, professor Simon Brown claims the chips mimic the signalling behaviour of the brain.

“We were surprised at the extent to which the avalanches or cascades of voltage pulses on our chips replicate the avalanches of ‘action potentials’ that are observed in the brain,” he said.

“These are the signals that pass instructions from one ‘neuron’ to another, and so replicating them is an important step towards being able to make computer chips with brain-like functionality."

Furthermore, he said the chips might provide a different kind of artificial intelligence.

“By understanding the underlying fundamental physical processes, we believe we can design these chips and control their behaviour to do things like pattern or image recognition. The key is that processing on-chip and with low power consumption opens up new applications that are not currently possible."

Details of the chips have been presented in a paper Avalanches and criticality in self-organised nanoscale networks published in the peer-reviewed journal Science Advances.

According to the university, the paper proves signals on the chips are remarkably like those that pass through the network of neurons in the brain. It says this is important for building new kinds of computers because the brain is very good at processing information using very small amounts of energy.

“Brain-like computing could enable ‘edge computing’ and address the ever increasing energy consumption of computers.”

Copyright © 2019 IDG Communications, Inc.

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