New smart chip to give PCs abilities of the human brain [Nation (Kenya)]
(Nation (Kenya) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) Scientists have created an ultra-fast computer chip which will mimic the brain's abilities for perception, action, and cognition, giving way to a new series of high-tech personal computers.
International Business Machine (IBM), the American multinational technology research centre, said the brain operates comparatively slowly and at low precision and this makes it excel at recognising, interpreting, and acting upon patterns.
The chip is created with the same characteristics and designed to consume the same amount of power as a 20 watt light bulb while occupying the volume of a two-litre bottle.
Vital new technology
The IBM research principal investigator and senior manager, Dr Dharmendra Modha, said in a statement released this month that the new chip has architecture and programmes that are closely intertwined.
"While complementing today's computers, this will bring forth a vitally new technological capability in terms of programming and applying emerging learning systems," said Dr Modha.
The chip will enable a new generation of super intelligent sensor networks that ape the brain's abilities for perception, action, and cognition.
PC makers will have to adapt fast to the technology that will enable creation of faster, energy-efficient, lighter, and high memory-retaining gadgets.
Compared to recently developed chips by Intel and ARM (an international digital company) that have traditional central processing units combined with FPGA (an integrated circuit combined after manufacturing), technology analyst Thomas Makau said IBM's is the most intelligent.
"The new technology is a gateway to a series of intelligent computers, better than the ones with FPGA," he said, adding: "These kinds of processors are bound to help in speeding up computers even further over the coming years."
Traditional computers are constrained by power and size and operate with reduced effectiveness in processing real-time big data. The new chip, Dr Modha noted, aims to solve all that.
International Data Corporation said in a statement released early August that personal computer shipments to renowned markets will fall this year by 7.8 per cent due to a struggling economy and increased reliance on other mobile platforms.
Mr Abdi Ahmed, a private technology analyst, believes that despite the launch of the new chip, the PC market will still face barriers that will affect sales.
"It will take vendors some time to adapt to the cognitive chip and further take longer for it to penetrate the Kenyan market," he said, "By 2015, for instance, PC makers will produce the fourth generation of ultrabooks and sleek gadgets and that is when the cognitive chip will be at the peak of the market."
Mr Ahmed said the gadgets will have improved battery life, touch capability will be a common feature in PCs, will be increasingly lighter, thinner, and more affordable than today's PCs. They will largely feature gesture controls.
He said the chip, if used in tablets, might not be as advantageous as when used in a PC because the latter gives space so that there is ease for creation of content.
The IBM cognitive chip, alongside the recently launched Haswell chip by Intel, if combined for use on the Windows 8.1 Microsoft platform, could mark an end to tablets ranging from 10 to 12 inch size.
The current growing changes in hardware and software should bring laptops and tablets into the same range when it comes to price, performance, and battery life.
The latest innovations create a level playing ground among gadgets, with all desktops, laptops, and tablets featuring touch-sensitive gadgets. The cognitive chip could see a reduction in prices of tablets because all machines will boast similar features.
Dr Modha said chips will come in handy as they are built to serve a variety of sectors, ranging from home care, crime, and general office purposes.
"Some things the chip can do is to automatically identify who is speaking, help a partially blind person to recognise objects around, detect smell because of sensory modality, and further identify distinct speakers by voice and appearance," he said.
The researcher said one of the chips is small in size, uses little power, and has the ability to run 32 video cameras studded around and outside of its spheres. It could be used in a robot deployed in a disaster area and deliver audio and video messages of findings on screen.
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