Whenever you’re asked to carry out a task or even think about something, neurons in your brain exchange information in a series of electrical impulses. Researchers at Intel, in an attempt to mimic real brain function, have begun experimenting with so-called neuromorphic chips that attempt to closely resemble how a real brain functions.
Being manufactured by Intel’s research lab, the new chip, dubbed Loihi (after an active undersea volcano south of the island of Hawaii), will attempt to solve problems with thousands of spiking silicon neurons of its own. Like your neurons, they can adjust the connections between themselves and adapt to new tasks.
The chip, consisting of 128 computing cores, each core with 1,024 artificial neurons, giving the chip a total of more than 130,000 neurons and 130 million synaptic connections makes it slightly more complex than a lobster brain. In other words, it has a long way to go before it can even come close to doing what the human brain does on a daily basis.
Intel said it believes the chip could be used autonomously. A Loihi-powered medical device, for example, could determine what a normal heart rate is and therefore diagnose an abnormal heart condition, should one present itself. They emphasized that Loihi is intended to “self-learn” i.e. teach itself the answers to problems. The spiking nature of the simulated neurons will make the chips run more efficiently than a traditional chip design, Intel said.