IBM and academia work on human brain simulation

Boffins at IBM have teamed up with five universities to use the human brain as a template to build faster, smaller computer systems that benefit decision making.

Working with experts at Columbia University Medical Centre, Cornell University, Stanford University, the University of California-Merced and the University of Wisconsin-Madison, IBM Research plans to design and develop computers that simulate and emulate how the brain acts, interacts, perceives and senses things, in addition to mirroring its cognition, lower power usage and size.

In doing so, it is hoped that business and consumer users alike will be able to make decisions much more quickly as well as helping them to deal with the ever-increasing glut of digital data heading their way each year.

"Exploratory research is in the fabric of IBM's DNA," said Josephine Cheng, IBM Fellow and vice president of IBM's Almaden Research Centre in San Jose.

"We believe that our cognitive computing initiative will help shape the future of computing in a significant way, bringing to bear new technologies that we haven't even begun to imagine. The initiative underscores IBM's capabilities in bold, exploratory research and interest in powerful collaborations to understand the way the world works."

The idea is to break conventions around programmable machines to create a cognitive computer or "global brain" that is capable of quickly connecting all pieces of the decision making and problem solving puzzle in an error free way.

Minute nanoscale devices will be used for synapses and neurons as part of the project, which is supported by a $4.9 million (3.2 million) funding injection from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).

Maggie Holland

Maggie has been a journalist since 1999, starting her career as an editorial assistant on then-weekly magazine Computing, before working her way up to senior reporter level. In 2006, just weeks before ITPro was launched, Maggie joined Dennis Publishing as a reporter. Having worked her way up to editor of ITPro, she was appointed group editor of CloudPro and ITPro in April 2012. She became the editorial director and took responsibility for ChannelPro, in 2016.

Her areas of particular interest, aside from cloud, include management and C-level issues, the business value of technology, green and environmental issues and careers to name but a few.