IBM builds 1million neuron, brain-inspired processor

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IBM has taken another step toward its goal of creating a processor that mimics the human brain, with a second, more advanced neurosynaptic chip powered by an unprecedented 1million neurons and 256m synapses.

"Today, six years after inception, my colleagues and I deliver on the DARPA SyNAPSE metric of a 1million neuron, brain-inspired processor which consumes merely 70mW," said IBM Fellow Dr Dharmendra Modha. "We believe this chip establishes a new landmark in neurosynaptic computers with a radical new architecture, unparalleled scale, speed, power efficiency, and boundless scalability." Fabricated in Samsung's 28nm process, with 5.4billion transistors, TrueNorth is the largest chip IBM has built to date and the second largest CMOS chip in the world. It has a power density of 20mW/cm2 and features 4,096 neurosynaptic cores, each of which packs memory, computation and communication. The cores are distributed and operated in parallel, via an on chip event driven network. The architecture is designed so that individual cores can fail and yet, like the human brain, it can still function. Dr Modha continued: "The architecture can solve a wide class of problems from vision, audition, and multi sensory fusion, and has the potential to revolutionise the computer industry by integrating brain like capability into devices where computation is constrained by power and speed." Looking to the future, Modha and his colleagues envision augmenting their neurosynaptic cores with synaptic plasticity to create a 'new generation' of field adaptable neurosynaptic computers capable of online learning. He concluded: "We are working, at a feverish pace, to make the ecosystem available – as widely as possible – to IBMers, universities, business partners, start ups, and customers. "We have already built systems with 16m neurons and 4bn synapses. Our sights are now set high on the ambitious goal of integrating 4,096 chips in a single rack with 4bn neurons and 1trillion synapses while consuming ~4kW of power."