Making the Impossible Possible: IBM Develops Human Brain-Inspired Chips

August 12, 2014, By Sanjeev Ramachandran

In the modern world, humans do possess broader capabilities at the tip of their fingertips thanks to the advancement of technology. However, even after the massive evolution of technology has happened, we sometimes actually go the extra bit to copy our inherent capabilities into the technology we boast about.

It has also been a fact that when it comes to decision-making and thoughts, the human brain seldom has any match from the computing world.

The latest is that IBM has now achieved what was impossible a decade ago. According to the company, a human brain chip has been developed.


Wouldn’t it be nice if you share your decision-making capabilities with a chip? Recognition of stuff, sorting out the right ways not based on pre-described calculations but exactly the way a human brain would be thinking – all that would be possible.

That’s an area where even a processor powering the supercomputers may skip. But this postage-stamp sized chip will have it performed for you within a matter of nano seconds, yet with the least consumption of power.

TrueNorth, as coded by the developers, has been developed by SySNAPS (Systems of Neuromorphic Adaptive Plastic Scalable Electronics). Around a million neurons is packed inside the chip with 256 million synapses laid out in a 64 x 64 array.

Often, you may have found yourself in a quandary over the capabilities of an octa core processor over the quad core, be it in your PC or smartphons. In this context, TrueNorth packs 4,096 neurosynaptic cores in the array, with an accommodation capacity of 400 million bits of memory.  It doesn’t halt with the processing capabilities either. IBM has tiled 16 chips together in a 4 x 4 array.


A prototype of the chip was revealed in 2011. Inspired by the brain of a monkey, the chip was built with a single core and 256 neurons. Under a span of three years, they managed to put in place a hyper productive form of the same, working way effective with least power consumption. In fact the power consumed would be the same as what a hearing aid would need to work.

IBM has said the chip would come in handy in applications where conventional chips would fail. Making it simple, what the TrueNorth offers is more of a human approach in decision making and thoughts rather than working out hefty operations and skills. After all that’s why they  have a million neurons embedded inside it.

Funded by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, the project needed $ 53.5 million to see the light of the day.

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