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IBM Tries to Bring Brain Power to Computers

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IBM Research has been working on a project to give computers the same processing capabilities as the human brain. The goal is to integrate brain-related senses such as perception and interaction into hardware and software to enable computers to process and understand data faster while consuming less power, says IBM researcher Dharmendra Modha. Modha says neuroscience, nanotechnology, and supercomputing are all being combined as part of the effort to create a new computing platform. "If we could design computers that could be in real-world environments and sense and respond in an intelligent way, it would be a tremendous step forward," Modha says. A typical computing process starts out by defining the objectives and then creates algorithms to achieve those objectives. Modha says the brain works the opposite way, with a pre-established algorithm that is applied to problems as they arise, creating a platform that can address a wider variety of problems. For example, the brain-based approach could help manage the world's water supplies using real-time analysis of data gathered by a network of sensors that monitor variables to discover new patterns. Such an approach also could also be applied to world markets. The researchers are not working on concrete applications yet, but rather an understanding of what the brain does and how it can be implemented in computing, Modha says.

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