A computer powered by a human brain has long been a ghoulish trope of sci-fi, but it could be one step closer to reality thanks to IBM's SyNAPSE project.

The project aims to create chips capable of "cognitive computing", which means they instantly react and re-engineer themselves based on external stimuli and events.

Two prototype chips have been created, using advanced algorithms and silicon circuitry to recreate the phenomena of spiking neurons and synapses in biological systems.

This enables the processors to "learn" from experiences, find correlations, create hypotheses and mimic the brain's structural and synaptic plasticity.

'Compact size'

Dharmendra Modha, the leader of the project, said IBM aims to create "a system that not only analyses complex information from multiple sensory modalities at once but also dynamically rewires itself as it interacts with its environment - all while rivalling the brain's compact size and low-power usage."

Modha illustrated the idea behind the chips with the concept of traffic lights that are able to "integrate sights, sounds and smells and flag unsafe intersections before disaster happens", which sounds a little too close to Minority Report for our liking.

That said, a film starring a set of traffic lights instead of Tom Cruise has a certain appeal.

Via The Telegraph