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 brainthe world's most sophisticated computercan 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 liter soda bottle.
Cognitive computing: thought for the future
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 rememberand learn fromthe outcomes.
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.
Meeting of the minds
Researchers at IBM have been working on a cognitive computing project called Systems of Neuromorphic Adaptive Plastic Scalable Electronics (SyNAPSE). By reproducing the structure and architecture of the brainthe way its elements receive sensory input, connect to each other, adapt these connections, and transmit motor outputthe SyNAPSE project models computing systems that emulate the brain's computing efficiency, size and power usage without being programmed.
IBM is combining principles from nanoscience, neuroscience and supercomputing as part of a multi-year cognitive computing initiative. The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has awarded approximately US$21 million in new funding for phase 2 of the SyNAPSE project. For this project, a world-class, multi-dimensional team has been assembled, consisting of IBM researchers and collaborators from Columbia University; Cornell University; University of California, Merced; and University of Wisconsin-Madison.
How cognitive computing works
In these videos, the SyNAPSE team explains the hardware, software and science that forms the foundation of their cognitive computing project.
SyNAPSE: IBM Cognitive Computing Project Overview
Computing chips that rival human brain function? Here's how they'll work.
IBM's "Brain" Guy: Dharmendra Modha
An introduction to the project and people of the cognitive computing project.
SyNAPSE: IBM Cognitive Computing Project - Brain vs. Computer
Learning systems modeled after the world's most sophisticated computer.
SyNAPSE: IBM Cognitive Computing Project - Hardware
Whether the 'hardware' is a man or machine, they share common ground.
SyNAPSE: IBM Cognitive Computing Project - Circuit Architecture
Here's how a team sets its collective mind on developing a chip that learns.
SyNAPSE: IBM Cognitive Computing Project - Software
Where artificial intelligence hits a wall, cognitive computing scales it.
Dharmendra S Modha's Cognitive Computing blog Manager of cognitive computing at IBM Almaden Research Center