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IBM Seeks to Build a Computer That Mimics the Brain

Image courtesy IBM

IBM and university collaborators are developing a “cognitive computer” they hope will mimic the brain’s abilities for sensation, perception, action, and interaction while rivaling the brain’s low power consumption and compact size.

The goal is a computer “with a new intelligence that can integrate information from a variety of sensors and sources, deal with ambiguity, respond in a context-dependent way, learn over time and carry out pattern recognition to solve difficult problems based on perception, action and cognition in complex, real-world environments,” IBM said in a statement yesterday.

Watch the IBM video for an explanation of how this will work:

“Cognitive computing offers the promise of systems that can integrate and analyze vast amounts of data from many sources in the blink of an eye, allowing businesses or individuals to make rapid decisions in time to have a significant impact,” the company said.   
“For example, bankers must make split-second decisions based on constantly changing data that flows at an ever-dizzying rate.  And in the business of monitoring the world’s water supply, a network of sensors and actuators constantly records and reports metrics such as temperature, pressure, wave height, acoustics and ocean tide.

“In either case, making sense of all that input would be a Herculean task for one person, or even for one hundred.  A cognitive computer, acting as a ‘global brain,’ could quickly and accurately put together the disparate pieces of this complex puzzle and help people make good decisions rapidly.’

The project received $4.9 million in funding from the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, Initial research will focus on demonstrating nanoscale, low power synapse-like devices and on uncovering the functional microcircuits of the brain.  The long-term mission is to demonstrate low-power, compact cognitive computers that approach mammalian-scale intelligence.

“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,” said Josephine Cheng, IBM Fellow and vice president of IBM’s Almaden Research Center in San Jose.

Related National Geographic News stories:

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