Neural networks are circuits that simulate the functions of neurons and their interconnecting synapses in the human brain. Hewlett Packard has announced its memristor component that can perform the function of a synapse, but IBM has its own ideas about how to harness nanotechnology to achieve the goal. Look for artificial brains to start appearing within 10 years. R.C.J.
All the rage a decade ago, neural networks are making a comeback at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (Darpa). Last year, the agency resurrected efforts to create brain-like electronic circuitry to automatically learn the relevant features and associations needed to recognize objects. Last week, IBM Corp. received a $16.1 million contract from Darpa for a program called SyNAPSE (Systems of Neuromorphic Adaptive Plastic Scalable Electronics). Current systems for pattern recognition of enemy tanks, for example, depend on hand-crafted algorithms, but SyNAPSE aims to automate pattern recognition by mimicking the human brain. To achieve ithis goal, researchers need a synapse--the adaptive connection between neurons in the brain that changes values in response to perceived patterns. Synapses change the connection strength between neurons to learn new patterns without traditional programming. IBM's charter is to develop materials that facilitates the changes that adapt to new patterns, categorize the features that will enable recognition and can interface with conventional computers to provide them with learning capabilities. Besides developing a working synapse, the project will also simulate synaptic components in special-purpose cores that support the adptaive learning architecture needed for automatic pattern recognition systems.