A new form of computer memory might help machines match the capabilities of the human brain when it comes to tasks such as interpreting images or video footage.
Researchers at IBM used what’s known as phase-change memory to build a device that processes data in a way inspired by the workings of a biological brain. Using a prototype phase-change memory chip, the researchers configured the system to act like a network of 913 neurons with 165,000 connections, or synapses, between them. The strength of those connections change as the chip processes incoming data, altering how the virtual neurons influence one another. By exploiting that property, the researchers got the system to learn to recognize handwritten numbers.
Phase-change memory is expected to hit the market in the next few years. It can write information more quickly, and pack it more densely, than the memory used in computers today (see “A Preview of Future Disk Drives”). A phase-change memory chip consists of a grid of “cells” that can each switch between two states to represent a digital bit of information—a 1 or a 0. In IBM’s experimental system, each “synapse” is represented by a pair of memory cells working together.To read more, click here.