Photo taken on Sept. 1, 2020 shows the demonstration session of the brain-like computer in a lab in east China's Zhejiang Province. (Photo provided to Xinhua)
Photo taken on Sept. 1, 2020 shows the demonstration session of the brain-like computer in a lab in east China's Zhejiang Province. (Photo provided to Xinhua)

A brain-like computer with over 100 million neurons, the first of its kind in China, has been developed by researchers in east China's Zhejiang Province.

Zhejiang University and Zhejiang Lab on Tuesday jointly introduced the newly developed computer named Darwin Mouse.

This high-tech device contains 792 second-generation brain-like Darwin chips developed by Zhejiang University, said Zhu Shiqiang, director of Zhejiang Lab. It supports 120 million spiking neurons and nearly 100 billion synapses, which are equivalent to the number of neurons in the brain of a mouse. The average power consumption of the computer comes in at only 350-500 watts.

"Just like building blocks, we integrated the 792 brain-like computing chips into three standard server chassis to form a powerful rack-mounted brain-like computer," said Pan Gang, leader of the research team, from College of Computer Science and Technology, Zhejiang University.

Meanwhile, the team also developed an operating system specifically designed for brain-like computers, named Darwin OS, which realizes effective management and scheduling of the hardware resources and supports operations and applications of brain-like computers.

According to researchers, brain-like computing refers to the use of hardware and software to simulate the structure and operating mechanism of the brain's neural network and construct a new artificial intelligence paradigm. It is an innovative computing architecture that is regarded as one of the important ways to solve complex computing-related problems in fields, such as artificial intelligence.

Pan added that this type of brain-like computer has been able to perform a variety of intelligent tasks, such as enabling the collaboration of multiple robots in simulated flood-fighting-and-rescue operations, simulating different regions of the brain and providing faster and large-scale simulation tools for scientific research. Besides, it has also realized "mind typing" through real-time decoding of electroencephalogram (EEG) signals.

"By simulating the human brain, we will be able to understand the working principles of different parts of the brain, which will help cure certain brain diseases that otherwise cannot be diagnosed through biomedical approaches," said Pan. "In the future, brain-like computers will have broader application prospects including three major areas of artificial intelligence, brain science and brain diseases."

"Brain-like computing is expected to emerge as an important form of computing in the future," said Wu Zhaohui, academician of the Chinese Academy of Sciences and president of Zhejiang University.

"It is the latest achievement of the brain science and artificial intelligence research project (referred to as the Double Brain Project). By emulating the structure and mechanism of the brain, this project is expected to develop a new computer architecture that will lead the future," said Wu.

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