A team of scientist from the University of Manchester has developed a supercomputer mimicking the human brain. Known as SpiNNaker or Spiking Neural Network Architecture, the supercomputer is the latest after Summit Supercomputer was announced as the world’s fastest computer.
SpiNNaker is a novel computer architecture inspired by the working of the human brain. The project, lead by Steve Furber a computer engineering professor at the University of Manchester is aimed at three main areas of research, which include Neuroscience, Robotics and Computer Science. Its application includes predicting the effects of medications on the human nervous system, improve drug effectiveness as well as developing new medicines.
SpiNNaker was designed by creating a unique spiking neural network system on a chip that generates spikes to pass a signal from one node to the other. The system is already being used in the Human Brain Project, which is aimed to develop a virtual robotics environment that can be accessed collectively by hardware engineers, neuroscientists and programmers to improve our understanding about the most complex machine-human brain.
In the words of Furber,
SpiNNaker’s extremely flexible — all the models we use of neurons and synapses are little bits of software. If you turned those into hardware, they would be smaller and more efficient, but the reason we use software is there’s no real agreement as to what the right model is, and different brain regions probably need different models, and software gives us flexibility.
SpiNNaker may not be 100% perfect, but will certainly pave the way for the development of next-generation intelligent robots and medical research.