The quest to make a computer chip that’s as energy efficient as your brain


(Courtesy of Kurt Hickman)

Scientists are making significant strides when it comes to modeling computers on the power and efficiency of your brain, an ongoing project that could transform both health and computing.

The latest advancement comes out of Stanford University, where researchers have created a circuit board that is modeled after the functions of the brain.

It’s called Neurogrid, and the entire device is roughly the size of an iPad. It is comprised of 16 “neurocore” chips that can act like one million neurons in the brain, simulating billions of synapses, or connections in your body that perform a myriad of functions from moving muscles to making sense of sights and sounds.

As advanced as that sounds, Neurogrid pales in comparison to the human brain, according to Kwabena Boahen an associate professor of bioengineering at Stanford who was involved with the National Institutes of Health-funded project.

“The human brain, with 80,000 times more neurons than Neurogrid, consumes only three times as much power,” Boahen writes in a paper published in Proceedings of the IEEE.  “Achieving this level of energy efficiency while offering greater configurability and scale is the ultimate challenge neuromorphic engineers face.”

Added to Boahen’s challenge is the sheer cost of producing this kind of technology– $40,000 to be exact.

But that’s an estimate of what it takes to build Neurogrid in its prototypical form. Using the most up-to-date manufacturing technology could knock the cost down to $400.

The cost of your, more efficient version: $0.

The remarkable creation could be utilized in many ways, but researchers hope that it will help power prosthetic limbs efficiently and intelligently.

They envision a circuit board that could be implanted in the brain that can interpret its signals and power prosthetic limbs—all without external power or overheating the brain.


(Courtesy of Kurt Hickman)
Abby Phillip is a general assignment national reporter for the Washington Post. She can be reached at abby.phillip@washpost.com. On Twitter: @abbydphillip

national/on-innovations

innovations

Success! Check your inbox for details. You might also like:

Please enter a valid email address

See all newsletters

Comments
Show Comments

Sign up for email updates from the "Confronting the Caliphate" series.

You have signed up for the "Confronting the Caliphate" series.

Thank you for signing up
You'll receive e-mail when new stories are published in this series.
Most Read National

national/on-innovations

innovations

Success! Check your inbox for details.

See all newsletters

Next Story
Hayley Tsukayama · April 29, 2014

To keep reading, please enter your email address.

You’ll also receive from The Washington Post:
  • A free 6-week digital subscription
  • Our daily newsletter in your inbox

Please enter a valid email address

I have read and agree to the Terms of Service and Privacy Policy.

Please indicate agreement.

Thank you.

Check your inbox. We’ve sent an email explaining how to set up an account and activate your free digital subscription.