IBM gets funding for cognitive computing research

IBM Corp. and five top universities are working together to create computers that simulate the brain.

IBM Corp. and five universities are working together to create computing systems designed to simulate the brain's abilities for sensation, perception, action, interaction and cognition.

IBM and its partners won $4.9 million in funding from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency for the first phase of DARPA's Systems of Neuromorphic Adaptive Plastic Scalable Electronics initiative.

Over the next nine months, IBM plans to research material science, neuromorphic circuitry, supercomputing simulations and virtual environments. Initial research will focus on demonstrating nanoscale, low-power, synapse-like devices and on uncovering the functional microcircuits of the brain. The long-term mission of research is to demonstrate low-power, compact cognitive computers that approach intelligence like a mammal.

Cognitive computing offers the promise of systems that can integrate and analyze vast amounts of data from many sources in seconds. The technology will allow organizations to make rapid decisions.

Ultimately, the research team hopes to rival the brain's low power consumption and small size by using nanoscale devices for synapses and neurons. IBM's partners are Stanford University, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Cornell University, Columbia University Medical Center and University of California-Merced.

IBM, of Armonk, N.Y., ranks No. 16 on Washington Technology's 2008 Top 100 list of the largest federal government prime contractors.