IBM aims to gain insights about biological and artificial computing by building next-generation systems that meld concepts from both worlds.
For example, IBM is using the human brain as a model for new designs, such as a fluid-based system for cooling and distributing electricity throughout a computer, which could enable processing power to be packed within three-dimensional volumes rather than spread out flat in two dimensions. The system would address the inability of communication links between processing elements to keep pace with data-transfer demands, and their over-consumption of power.
IBM also is contributing to Europe's Human Brain Project, which seeks to simulate the brain computationally to obtain new knowledge about cognitive disorders and other brain-related behaviors. Researchers will use supercomputers to replicate the formation of the brain, and then observe responses to input signals from simulated senses and nervous systems.
The research efforts are part of IBM's emphasis on cognitive systems, which is exemplified by the company's shift of the metrics it uses to judge computing success from operations per second to operations per liter.
"If we want to make an impact in the cognitive systems era, we need to understand how the brain works," says IBM Research's Matthias Kaiserswerth.
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