Bioengineers at Stanford University have developed microchips based on the human brain that are more energy efficient and up to 9000 times faster than the typical PC.
Simulating the human brain is one of the holy grails of computing — but it's extraordinarily difficult to do. Just last year, the longest simulation of brain activity to date was achieved. It used the fourth-most powerful computer in the world, Japan's K Computer, 705,024 processor cores, and running at speeds of over 10 petaflops. The simulation, using 92,944 processors, took 40 minutes to simulate one second of brain activity over the equivalent of one per cent of the brain, around 10.4 trillion synapses.
As for why it's important — if we could get a computer to operate with the power and speed of the human brain, we could make some incredibly advanced robots, or prosthetic limbs that operate with the speed and complexity of our own movements. It could also help us understand better how the brain actually works — a largely mysterious subject.
A team of bioengineers at Stanford University has created a circuit board that is able to simulate the activity of one million neurons — around seven billion synaptic connections — in real-time. At about the size of an iPad, the board — called the Neurogrid — consists of 16 custom-designed "Neurocore" chips made using 15-year-old technology laid out in a tree network. This is because it uses analogue computation alongside digital.