Electric dreams

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Electric dreams

Dr Natalie Plank in the lab

Dr Natalie Plank working on low power data processing on a chip small enough to fit into your phone

Unlike conventional computers, the human brain is a master of complex tasks like pattern recognition. It’s this skill that allows us to learn from experience. Part of this ability comes from the way our brain is constructed - as a network of neurons connected by synapses.

Our brain's construction provided MacDiarmid Institute Principal Investigator Professor Simon Brown, University of Canterbury, with inspiration for a new approach to computing. Called neuromorphic computing, this approach uses tiny circuits to mimic the operation of the human brain.

Alongside Principal Investigator Dr Natalie Plank, Victoria University of Wellington, and Associate Investigator Dr Saurabh Bose, Professor Brown’s eventual aim is to set up a commercial company to fabricate these chips.

We are deliberately trying to replicate the structure of the brain, so there are no ones and zeros here. Instead, data forms a physical pathway across the complex series of connections present in the chip, similar to how memories are formed in the brain.

Professor Simon Brown MacDiarmid Institute Principal Investigator University of Canterbury

More information

More information on neuromorphic computing: Annual Report 2016 - page 23