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A new chip from Intel, mimicking the brain, can learn

Intel introduces the Loihi test chip, a first-of-its-kind with self-learning capabilities. Credit: Intel

Intel has announced a new chip “Loihi”, a first of its kind, resulting from several years of research carried out in cooperation with Caltech, that can learn and evolve. It is based on a neuromorphic architecture, that is it mimics the brain and as the brain it can change its connections strengthening some and weakening others as result of the signals it processes.

It contains an equivalent of 130,000 neurones an 130 million synapses. It is nothing with respect to our own brain with 100 billion neurones and a 100 trillion of synapses but it is a first step.  It is not the first neuromorphic chip, the IBM Synapse appeared in 2014 and has grown into a chip mimicking 1 million neurones and 256 million synapses, but it looks like it is making one step forward with respect to the existing ones. The difference is that whilst previous chips, like Synapse, provided a flexible architecture that can be exploited by software outside of the chip, in Loihi each core in the chip can be programmed to learn and to change the internal architecture as the chip processes data. According to the researchers of Intel the first experiments have shown a significant advantage on other neuromorphic chips.

The power consumption is extremely low, 1/1000 of the ones used by a classic computer, mimicking neurones also with respect to power consumption.

Intel expects to release the chip in Spring 2018 to several universities around the world to enable experimentation on a very broad set of applications as shown in the clip. Among them the chip is expected to become part of robots’ brain helping image understanding and decision making. In turns this will provide brain power to autonomous systems.

About Roberto Saracco

Roberto Saracco fell in love with technology and its implications long time ago. His background is in math and computer science. Until April 2017 he led the EIT Digital Italian Node and then was head of the Industrial Doctoral School of EIT Digital up to September 2018. Previously, up to December 2011 he was the Director of the Telecom Italia Future Centre in Venice, looking at the interplay of technology evolution, economics and society. At the turn of the century he led a World Bank-Infodev project to stimulate entrepreneurship in Latin America. He is a senior member of IEEE where he leads the New Initiative Committee and co-chairs the Digital Reality Initiative. He is a member of the IEEE in 2050 Ad Hoc Committee. He teaches a Master course on Technology Forecasting and Market impact at the University of Trento. He has published over 100 papers in journals and magazines and 14 books.

One comment

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