IBM has integrated the TrueNorth chips into 16 million neuron system and are targeting a 4 billion neuron system in a rack and DARPA plans robots with neuromorphic chips

The IBM TrueNorth neuromorphic chip is inspired by the brain. The inputs to and outputs of this computer are spikes. Functionally, it transforms a spatio–temporal stream of input spikes into a spatio–temporal stream of output spikes.

If one were to measure activities of one million neurons in TrueNorth, one would see something akin to a night cityscape with blinking lights. Given this unconventional computing paradigm, compiling C++ to TrueNorth is like using a hammer for a screw. As a result, to harness TrueNorth, IBM has designed an end–to–end ecosystem complete with a new simulator, a new programming language, an integrated programming environment, new libraries, new (and old) algorithms as well as applications, and a new teaching curriculum (affectionately called, “SyNAPSE University”). The goal of the ecosystem is to dramatically increase programmer productivity. Metaphorically, if TrueNorth is ENIAC, then our ecosystem is the corresponding FORTRAN.

Dharmendra S. Modha’s team is working, at a feverish pace, to make the ecosystem available–as widely as possible–to IBMers, universities, business partners, start–ups, and customers. In collaboration with the international academic community, by leveraging the ecosystem, they foresee being able to map the existing body of neural network algorithms to the architecture in an efficient manner, as well as being able to imagine and invent entirely new algorithms.

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

They envision augmenting the neurosynaptic cores with synaptic plasticity to create a new generation of field–adaptable neurosynaptic computers capable of online learning.

TrueNorth is a direction and not a destination! The end goal is building intelligent business machines that enable a cognitive planet, while transforming industries.

DARPA targets neuromorphic chips in more capable robots

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