The future is closer than you think, and we might as well start finding our Sarah Conner to fight robots. The researchers at the University of Manchester, UK have developed the world’s largest computer that is designed to work in the same way as the human brain. And it has just been switched on.
The Spiking Neural Network Architecture (SpiNNaker) machine is capable of completing more than 200 million million actions per second. It took the researchers 20 years to conceive the supercomputer and was built over 10 years with a funding of £15 million. The initial build started way back in 2006.
The supercomputer uses large-scale computer systems containing electronic circuits to mimic brain cells that communicate primarily by emitting ‘spikes’ of pure electro-chemical energy. SpiNNaker mimics the massively parallel communication architecture of the brain by sending billions of small amounts of information simultaneously to thousands of different destinations.
Steve Furber, who conceived the initial idea for SpiNNaker, said in a statement,
“SpiNNaker completely re-thinks the way conventional computers work. We’ve essentially created a machine that works more like a brain than a traditional computer, which is extremely exciting. The ultimate objective for the project has always been a million cores in a single computer for real-time brain modelling applications, and we have now achieved it, which is fantastic.”
The supercomputer will help neuroscientists better understand how our brain works by running large-scale simulations that are not possible on other machines. It has been used to simulate the outer layer of the brain that receives and processes information as well as simulated a region of the brain that is affected in Parkinson’s disease. It has also been used to design robots that can walk, talk and move with flexibility.
The researchers now want to model up to a billion biological neurons in real time, which will be just 100 times smaller than the computational power of the human brain.