NeuroSynaptic (brain-inspired) Chip by IBM

In 2008, DARPA started a program called SyNAPSE (Systems of Neuromorphic Adaptive Plastic Scalable Electronics), with the intention of designing new computing infrastructure based on human biological brains.

In April, 2014, engineers at Stanford University announced a circuit board using 16 “Neurocore” chips that together can simulate the capability of one million neurons with billions of connections between them. This project was funded by NIH.

Under the DARPA program, IBM has announced a processor chip called “TrueNorth” which contains one million programmable neurons capable of making 256 million programmable synaptic connections with each other. It uses 5.4 billion transistors to accomplish this and has over four thousand parallel cores on the chip. It’s the size of a postage stamp and runs on 70 milliwatts of power, about the same as a hearing aid.

The next step for IBM is to integrate these chips into larger systems:

To support these algorithms at ever increasing scale, TrueNorth chips can be seamlessly tiled to create vast, scalable neuromorphic systems. In fact, we have already built systems with 16 million neurons and 4 billion synapses. Our sights are now set high on the ambitious goal of integrating 4,096 chips in a single rack with 4 billion neurons and 1 trillion synapses while consuming ~4kW of power.

DARPA SyNAPSE Program – []

SyNAPSE is a DARPA-funded program to develop electronic neuromorphic machine technology that scales to biological levels. More simply stated, it is an attempt to build a new kind of computer with similar form and function to the mammalian brain. Such artificial brains would be used to build robots whose intelligence matches that of mice and cats.

SyNAPSE is a backronym standing for Systems of Neuromorphic Adaptive Plastic Scalable Electronics. It started in 2008 and as of January 2013 has received $102.6 million in funding. It is scheduled to run until around 2016. The project is primarily contracted to IBM and HRL who in turn subcontract parts of the research to various US universities.

The ultimate aim is to build an electronic microprocessor system that matches a mammalian brain in function, size, and power consumption. It should recreate 10 billion neurons, 100 trillion synapses, consume one kilowatt (same as a small electric heater), and occupy less than two liters of space.

Stanford bioengineers create circuit board modeled on the human brain []

Stanford bioengineers have developed faster, more energy-efficient microchips based on the human brain – 9,000 times faster and using significantly less power than a typical PC. This offers greater possibilities for advances in robotics and a new way of understanding the brain. For instance, a chip as fast and efficient as the human brain could drive prosthetic limbs with the speed and complexity of our own actions.

The Board: Neurogrid – []

Inspired by GRAPE-6, a $60K supercomputer that has revolutionized astrophysics, Neurogrid provides an affordable option for brain simulations. It uses analog computation to emulate ion-channel activity and uses digital communication to softwire synaptic connections. These technologies impose different constraints, because they operate in parallel and in serial, respectively. Analog computation constrains the number of distinct ion-channel populations that can be simulated—unlike digital computation, which simply takes longer to run bigger simulations. Digital communication constrains the number of synaptic connections that can be activated per second—unlike analog communication, which simply sums additional inputs onto the same wire. Working within these constraints, Neurogrid achieves its goal of simulating multiple cortical areas in real-time by making judicious choices.

Introducing a Brain-inspired Computer TrueNorth’s neurons to revolutionize system architecture – []

Six years ago, IBM and our university partners embarked on a quest—to build a brain-inspired machine—that at the time appeared impossible. Today, in an article published in Science, we deliver on the DARPA SyNAPSE metric of a one million neuron brain-inspired processor. The chip consumes merely 70 milliwatts, and is capable of 46 billion synaptic operations per second, per watt–literally a synaptic supercomputer in your palm.

Along the way—progressing through Phase 0, Phase 1, Phase 2, and Phase 3—we have journeyed from neuroscience to supercomputing, to a new computer architecture, to a new programming language, to algorithms, applications, and now to a new chip—TrueNorth.

Brain Power – []

What is a cognitive chip? The latest SyNAPSE chip, introduced on August 7, 2014, has the potential to transform mobility by spurring innovation around an entirely new class of applications with sensory capabilities at incredibly low power levels. This is enabled by an revolutionary new technology design inspired by the human brain. IBM built a new chip with a brain-inspired computer architecture powered by an unprecedented 1 million neurons and 256 million synapses. It is the largest chip IBM has ever built at 5.4 billion transistors, and has an on-chip network of 4,096 neurosynaptic cores. Yet, it only consumes 70mW during real-time operation — orders of magnitude less energy than traditional chips. As part of a complete cognitive hardware and software ecosystem, this technology opens new computing frontiers for distributed sensor and supercomputing applications.

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