As impressive as computers are becoming, they still pale in comparison to nature’s version – the brain. As such scientists have started designing computer chips that work in a similar way to the brain, using artificial neurons and synapses. Now Intel has unveiled its most powerful “neuromorphic” computing system to date. Named Pohoiki Springs, this system packs in 100 million neurons, putting it on par with the brain of a small mammal.
Traditional computer chips are excellent at quickly crunching huge numbers that would make a human’s eyes water. But they aren’t as adept at abstract problems like spotting the difference between dogs and cats, which we can do seemingly without thinking.
Machine learning is an emerging form of artificial intelligence that’s aiming to improve this. By training a system on thousands or millions of examples of what it needs to know, it can learn patterns and become very good at that type of task.
And that’s the type of computing system that Intel is now experimenting with. The Loihi neuromorphic processor packs 130,000 artificial neurons and 130 million synapses, and functions like a human brain. Traditional computers process information in one area then pass it on to another for storage. But the Loihi – like the brain – performs both functions in the same spot, saving time and energy. Plus, the chip rewires its connections over time, boosting that efficiency further.