After soundly trouncing human opponents on Jeopardy! with their Watson computer program, what was I.B.M. to do? Apparently, dominating our trivia game shows wasn’t enough for the machines!

I.B.M. announced today that they’re releasing two working prototypes of something called “cognitive computer chips” that are nearing human brain-like functionality. The $41 million project was the result of a collaboration with the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency and several university researchers (Columbia U, Cornell U, U of California, Merced and the U of Wisconsin).

The two chips don’t take much power to run, and are designed with a fundamental difference. The two semiconductor cores each have 256 neuron-like nodes (of course… nodes!). One core is linked to 262,144 synapse-like memory modules (uh-huh), while the other is linked to 65,536 such memory synapses (nodding). These two cores comprise the “neurosynaptic core.” Who would have thought with all of that academic help the language would be this dry?

The new chips are designed to differ from conventional computers by having stronger skills at things like pattern recognition. They increase intelligence on their own, much like Watson. 

Though the chips aren’t scheduled for any commercial release anytime soon, the real advancement is in the research of the computer technology. One of these computers may eventually be able to beat Howie Mandel on “Deal or No Deal.”

[via NY Times]