A TECHNOLOGY that functions like a brain? In these times of artificial intelligence, this no longer seems so far-fetched — for example, when a mobile phone can recognise faces or languages. With more complex applications, however, computers still quickly come up against their own limitations. One of the reasons for this is that a computer traditionally has separate memory and processor units — the consequence of which is that all data have to be sent back and forth between the two.
In this respect, the human brain is way ahead of even the most modern computers because it processes and stores information in the same place — in the synapses, or connections between neurons, of which there are a million-billion in the brain. An international team of researchers from the Universities of Münster (Germany), Oxford and Exeter (both UK) have now succeeded in developing a piece of hardware which could pave the way for creating computers which resemble the human brain.
The scientists managed to produce a chip containing a network of artificial neurons that works with light and can imitate the behaviour of neurons and their synapses.
The researchers were able to demonstrate, that such an optical neurosynaptic network is able to “learn” information and use this as a basis for computing and recognising patterns — just as a brain can.