- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 7, 2014

The Pentagon’s research arm charged with creating breakthrough technologies for national security have created a computer chip inspired by the human brain that makes high-end market alternatives look obsolete.

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), working with scientists from IBM in San Jose, California, have developed a chip with over 5 billion transistors and more than 250 million “synapses” that mimic the connections between neurons in the brain.

The technology, which requires only a fraction of electricity needed by other chips, is the result of the Neuromorphic Adaptive Plastic Scalable Electronics (SyNAPSE) program.

Gill Pratt, DARPA program manager, commented on the agency’s website Thursday that the chip “could give unmanned aircraft or robotic ground systems with limited power budgets a more refined perception of the environment.”

The chip, he said, could allow drones to distinguish threats more accurately and take burdens off system operators.

“Computer chip design is driven by a desire to achieve the highest performance at the lowest cost. Historically, the most important cost was that of the computer chip. But Moore’s law — the exponentially decreasing cost of constructing high-transistor-count chips — now allows computer architects to borrow an idea from nature, where energy is a more important cost than complexity, and focus on designs that gain power efficiency by sparsely employing a very large number of components to minimize the movement of data,” Mr. Pratt added.

SEE ALSO: Drones from the deep: Pentagon develops ocean-floor attack robots

The Pentagon also believes that the new chip will allow military personnel to carry lighter computer equipment on deployments, since current batteries often come in cumbersome packages.

“Our troops often are in austere environments and must carry heavy batteries to power mobile devices, sensors, radios and other electronic equipment,” Mr. Pratt said. “Air vehicles also have very limited power budgets because of the impact of weight. For both of these environments, the extreme energy efficiency achieved by the SyNAPSE program’s accomplishments could enable a much wider range of portable computing applications for defense.”

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