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New Computer Chip that Acts Like a Brain

According to an article just published in Science, and referenced in sources like an August 8, 2014 Houston Chronicle article written by John Marhoff entitled “New computer chip designed to work like a brain but consume little power,” researchers at IBM developed a new processor called “TrueNorth.” This new processor relies on densely interconnected webs of transistors, patterned after the brain’s neural networks.

While current chips struggle to recognize if light is growing brighter or changing color or shape, or if a woman in a video is picking up a purse or reaching into a pocket and pulling out a quarter, the new chip, which has 5.4 billion transistors and which uses only 70 milliwatts of power, is designed to handle such tasks.  This is, on the one hand, a stark improvement to today’s personal computers and data centers that have roughly 1.4 billion transistors and consume 35 to 140 watts of power.

However, on the other hand, the TrueNorth processor can barely make one thousand calculations per second. This is a far cry from the billions of mathematical operations performed in a second by conventional chips. Nevertheless, as the technology advances it may very well improve speech recognition and photo classification according to John Marhoff. Thus, Dr. Clark feels that it will be interesting to watch how the future unfolds when it comes to the new device, which has been compared to the brain of a bee.