IBM researchers and scientists from several major universities, with the aid of a $4.9 million grant from DARPA, will look to use nanoscale technology to create new types of computers capable of cognitive thinking. The goal of the IBM research is to find whether new types of IT infrastructure and computers can not only collect data but use that data to solve problems and make decisions in the same way the human brain solves problems.
While a computer with artificial intelligence such as HAL
of "2001: A Space Odyssey" remains the stuff of science fiction, IBM researchers are looking to
that will bring cognitive abilities to a new class of
researchers, along with scientists from several major universities,
have been awarded a $4.9 million grant from DARPA
(Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency)
to see if they can develop
computers with the ability to not only collect data but solve problems in much
the same way a human brain does.
IBM, along with Stanford
University, the University
of Wisconsin-Madison, Cornell
Center and the University
of California-Merced, announced the
DARPA grant Nov. 20.
During the next nine months, IBM and its
research partners will use a number of technologies, including cutting-edge
nanoscale technology and IBM's
to begin the work of building a machine capable of
While computers can record and store data, it is the human brain that
analyzes that massive amount of data and then makes a decision. The type of
computer IBM is looking to develop would essentially
become a "global brain" that could collect data from a number of
different sources and make decisions or help people make better decisions.
"The end goal: ubiquitously deployed computers imbued with a new
intelligence that can integrate information from a variety of sensors and
sources, deal with ambiguity, respond in a context-dependent way, learn over
time and carry out pattern recognition to solve difficult problems based on
perception, action and cognition in complex, real-world environments," said
an IBM statement.
To attempt to build a computer with the ability to handle cognitive
thinking, IBM researchers plan to turn to
the human brain as the best example. For example, IBM
hopes to use nanoscale technology
and devices to recreate the synapses and
neurons of the human brain. This would allow IBM to create a computer that is small
and uses little power.
"Nanotechnology is becoming sophisticated, to the point where designing
and manufacturing atomic-scale neurological components are a real
possibility," Charles King, an analyst with Pund-IT Research, wrote in a
research note. "This is no simple task, and it is understandably (and
financially) infeasible to deploy BlueGene/L supercomputing systems as 'global
brains.' Instead, the success of cognitive computing will require novel, even
unique computing architectures and programming tools."
The official title of the IBM project is
"Cognitive Computing via Synaptronics and Supercomputing (C2S2)."
Editor's Note: This article was updated to
include analyst comments.