Each corelet is in fact a tiny neural network itself and can be combined with other corelets to build functionality. "One can compose complex algorithms and applications by combining boxes hierarchically," Modha said.
IBM researchers have already composed 150 corelets, which have been captured in a program library. The company has also developed a teaching curriculum, application library and prototype designs for the new architecture.
Modha said that this style of computing is not designed to replace today's computers. "Today's computers are great for analytical processing, symbolic processing and number crunching," he said.
Rather, SyNAPSE chips could be used to one day build complementary devices that would excel at low-power sensing at the edges of a network. Unlike today's sensors, SyNAPSE systems could do a lot of the initial computations needed to recognize patterns.
"We are populating the Earth and space with sensors, cameras and microphones, and then moving [the data they create] to the data center. Data is going to computation. But with a low power and brain-like capabilities of our chips, and the ability to do pattern recognition, we can move intelligent computation back to the edge," Modha said. "The sensor becomes the computer."
For instance, these smart sensors could be used to build glasses for the visually impaired, which would collect sensory information and translate it into a form that the user could understand.
Or jellyfish-like sensory buoys could be built that would float on the ocean and collect a wide range of information, such as temperature, air pressure, humidity, and also conduct duties such as tsunami monitoring and shipping lane enforcement, Modha said.
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