IBM to build computers based on human brain

Systems will be able to sense, perceive and interact in real-world environments

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By  Vineetha Menon Published  November 23, 2008

IBM Research and its collaborators have announced plans to create cognitive computing systems that will emulate the abilities of a human brain.

The research team, led by Dr. Dharmendra Modha, manager of IBM’s cognitive computing initiative, has been awarded $4.9 million by the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) in aid of the ambitious venture.

Inspired by the brain’s ability to sense, perceive, act and interact, the team plans to build computers that can integrate and analyze large amounts of data from multiple sources in an instant. They even aim to rival the brain’s low power consumption and small size by using nanoscale devices for synapses and neurons.

“Exploratory research is in the fabric of IBM’s DNA,” said Josephine Cheng, IBM Fellow and vice president of IBM’s Almaden Research Center 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 systems will be able to respond based on contexts, deal with ambiguity, learn over time and even solve problems based on perception, action and cognition in real-world environments.

This can greatly benefit industries such as banking where split-second decisions need to be made based on constantly changing information.

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