April 30, 2015

World Economic Forum: Top 10 Emerging Technologies of 2015

World Economic Forum named "Neuromorphic technology" as one of "Top 10 Emerging Technologies of 2015" and specifically cited IBM's TrueNorth Chip (see page 12 of the report).

April 16, 2015

Cognitive Systems Colloquium: Videos

Guest Post by Ben G. Shaw, Organizing Chair of Cognitive Systems Colloquium.

This is continued from the previous post dated November 12, 2014.

To highlight the transformative potential of IBM's Neurosynaptic System and its impact on computation in the Cognitive Era, IBM Research hosted nearly 200 eminent thinkers and pioneers in the field of brain-inspired computing at the IBM Research - Almaden Cognitive Systems Colloquium. The program featured over a dozen outstanding speakers and distinguished panelists. Attendees included nearly 200 thought leaders and potential early adopters from government, industry, academia, research and the venture community.

Recurring Themes of the Day:

  • The Brain: how advances in understanding nature's most efficient and powerful computational substrate are revealing new paradigms for computing
  • Technology: as von Neumann computation comes up against fundamental limitations that are bringing Moore's law to an end, how new approaches can revolutionize important classes of computation
  • Applications: how efficient, embedded neural computation may benefit individuals, businesses and society by making objects, environments and systems more aware and responsive
  • Ecosystems: how new technologies and offerings will gain breadth, depth and momentum to transform industries from robotics to healthcare, agriculture to mobile devices, transportation to public safety.

SyNAPSE Deep Dive:

In addition to reviewing the state of knowledge in the field of brain-inspired computing and a forward-looking panel discussion, participants took a concentrated "Deep Dive" into the recently announced IBM Neurosynaptic System including the 1-million neuron TrueNorth chip, architecture, development boards, programming paradigm, applications, education and ecosystem. Inspired by the brain, TrueNorth is an architecture and a substrate for non-von Neumann, event-driven, multi-modal, real-time spatio-temporal pattern recognition, sensory processing and integrated sensor-actuator systems. TrueNorth's extreme power efficiency and inherent scalability will revolutionize applications in mobile and embedded systems, at the same time allowing neural algorithms to achieve previously unattainable scales, running quickly, efficiently and natively in hardware.

Distinguished Speakers and Panelists:


The audience included luminaries such as Turing Prize Awardee, Ivan Sutherland, and Von Neumann Prize Awardee, Nimrod Megiddo. Four IBM Fellows were in attendance (Ronald Fagin, C. Mohan, Hamid Pirahesh, Stuart Parkin), as were prominent founders and visionaries in the field of brain-inspired computing, including Warren Hunt (UT Austin), Tim Lance (NYSERNet), Einar Gall (Neurosciences Institute), Gert Cauwenberghs (UCSD), Ken Kreutz-Delgado (UCSD) and Jeff Krichmar (UC Irvine).

March 18, 2015

Distinguished Alumnus Award

On March 10, 2015, at the 56th Foundation Day of IIT Bombay, I was selected for Distinguished Alumnus Award. I am grateful for the education that I received at IIT Bombay, for my teachers, for my fellow students, for my hostel mates, for the mess workers who fed me for four years, for the support staff, for my colleagues at IBM, and, of course, my family. Of the nearly 50,000 alumni, to date, roughly 100 have been honored. Previous Awardees include Nandan Nilekani and Kanwal Rekhi as well as two IBM Fellows Subramanian Iyer and Ramesh Agarwal.

IIT Bombay
Photo Credit: Hita Bambhania-Modha

February 26, 2015

IBM Brings the Brain Chip to Capitol Hill

For details, see here.

Capitol Hill

December 18, 2014

Brain-inspired Computing: A Decade-in-Review (2004-2014)

As 2014 comes to a close, TrueNorth (see here and here) was named a Runners-up for 2014 Breakthrough of the Year by Science Magazine.

This video and the following timeline provide a retrospective from 2004 to 2014 on the evolution of Brain-inspired Computing.

SyNAPSE Timeline
Illustration Credit: William Risk

December 10, 2014

Summer Internships in Brain-inspired Computing

Link to application is here.

November 21, 2014

Panel: Beyond Von Neumann, Neuromophic Systems and Architectures

On November 21, 2014, at Supercomputing 2014, I participated in a panel on "Beyond Von Neumann, Neuromophic Systems and Architectures" organized by Mark E. Dean along with R. Jacob Vogelstein, Karlheinz Meier, Kris Carlson, and Dhireesha Kudithipudi.

November 20, 2014

Supercomputing 2014

This week, IBM and Cornell team presented a ACM Gordon Bell Prize Finalist paper at Supercomputing 2014:

Title: "Real-time Scalable Cortical Computing at 46 Giga-Synaptic OPS/Watt with 100× Speedup in Time-to-Solution and 100,000× Reduction in Energy-to-Solution".
Authors: Andrew S. Cassidy, Rodrigo Alvarez-Icaza, Filipp Akopyan, Jun Sawada, John V. Arthur, Paul A. Merolla, Pallab Datta, Marc Gonzalez Tallada, Brian Taba, Alexander Andreopoulos, Arnon Amir, Steven K. Esser, Jeff Kusnitz, Rathinakumar Appuswamy, Chuck Haymes, Bernard Brezzo, Roger Moussalli, Ralph Bellofatto, Christian Baks, Michael Mastro, Kai Schleupen, Charles E. Cox, Ken Inoue, Steve Millman, Nabil Imam, Emmett McQuinn, Yutaka T. Nakamura, Ivan Vo, Chen Guo, Don Nguyen, Scott Lekuch, Sameh Assad, Daniel Friedman, Bryan L. Jackson, Myron D. Flickner, William P. Risk, Rajit Manohar, Dharmendra S. Modha
Abstract: Drawing on neuroscience, we have developed a parallel, event-driven kernel for neurosynaptic computation, that is efficient with respect to computation, memory, and communication. Building on the previously demonstrated highly-optimized software expression of the kernel, here, we demonstrate TrueNorth, a co-designed silicon expression of the kernel. TrueNorth achieves five orders of magnitude reduction in energy-to- solution and two orders of magnitude speedup in time-to-solution, when running computer vision applications and complex recurrent neural network simulations. Breaking path with the von Neumann architecture, TrueNorth is a 4,096 core, 1 million neuron, and 256 million synapse brain-inspired neurosynaptic processor, that consumes 65mW of power running at real-time and delivers performance of 46 Giga-Synaptic OPS/Watt. We demonstrate seamless tiling of TrueNorth chips into arrays, forming a foundation for cortex-like scalability. Unprecedented time-to-solution, energy-to-solution, scale, and performance of TrueNorth, combined with underlying flexibility of the kernel enables a broad range of cognitive applications.

The long-term aspiration is to build a "1%-human-scale" system with 4,096 processors one trillion synapses and that consumes merely 4kW.

4096 Processor System
Illustration Credit: William Risk

November 12, 2014

Cognitive Systems Colloquium

On May 10-11, 2006, I chaired IBM's Almaden Institute on Cognitive Computing. The Institute brought together over 165 attendees from over 57 different institutions and featured prominent speakers and panelists: Nobelist Gerald Edelman, The Neurosciences Institute, Henry Markram, EPFL/BlueBrain, Robert Hecht-Nielsen, UCSD, Jeff Hawkins, Palm/Numenta, James Albus, NIST, Theodore Berger, USC, Kwabena Boahen, Stanford, Ralph Linsker, IBM, Jerry Swartz, The Swartz Foundation, V. S. Ramachandran, UCSD, John Searle, UC Berkeley, Joaquin Fuster, UCLA, Leslie Valiant, Harvard University, Toby Berger, University of Virginia, and Christof Koch, Caltech.

Today, 8.5 years later, I chaired IBM's Cognitive Systems Colloquium with the goal of Taking Brain-Inspired Computing to Market. The Colloquium gathered over 200 eminent, innovative thinkers from academia, government, industry, research and the media.

Here are speakers and panelists:

  • Andreas Andreou, Johns Hopkins
  • Dharmendra S Modha, IBM Fellow, IBM Chief Scientist, Brain-Inspired Computing
  • Fei-Fei Li, Director, AI Lab, Stanford University
  • Gary Marcus, NYU
  • Gill Pratt, DARPA SyNAPSE Program Manager
  • Horst Simon, Deputy Director, Lawrence Berkeley National Lab
  • Karlheinz Meier, Co-Director, Human Brain Project, U. Heidelberg
  • Mark Anderson, Future in Review and Strategic News Service
  • Michael Hawrylycz, Allen Institute for Brain Science
  • Miyoung Chun, Executive VP of Science Programs, Kavli Foundation
  • Rajit Manohar, Cornell University, Associate Dean
  • Richard Cytowic, Author of Synesthesia: A Union of the Senses
  • Jayashree Subrahmonia, Vice President, Products, IBM Watson Group
  • Tobi Delbruck, Co-Founder, iniLabs & Professor, ETH
  • Vijaykrishnan Narayanan, PI, NSF Expeditions in Computing, Professor, Penn State

The Colloquium also included a SyNAPSE Deep Dive that covered: TrueNorth Architecture, TrueNorth Neuron Model, TrueNorth Chip with 1 million neurons and 256 million synapses, Single Chip Board, 16 chip Board, Future Scaling Path, TrueNorth "program", Compass Simulator, Corelet Programming Language, SyNAPSE University, and Demos.

Videos from the event will be available in the near future. Here is a summary.



  • Talk
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