SpiNNaker: World’s largest Brain-like Supercomputer

  • Category
    Science & Technology
  • Published
    20th Nov, 2018

Context

Spiking Neural Network Architecture (SpiNNaker) machine, the world’s largest supercomputer designed to work in the same way as the human brain has been switched on for the first time.

About

  • The newly formed million-processor-core Spiking Neural Network Architecture (SpiNNaker) machine is capable of completing more than 200 million actions per second, with each of its chips having 100 million transistors.
  • Designed and built in the United Kingdom, it can model more biological neurons in real time than any other machine.
  • SpiNNaker is unique because, unlike traditional computers, it does not communicate by sending large amounts of information from point A to B via a standard network. Instead it mimics the massively parallel communication architecture of the brain, sending billions of small amounts of information simultaneously to thousands of different destinations.

    Biological neurons

    They are basic brain cells present in nervous system that communicate by emitting ‘spikes’ of pure electro-chemical energy. It is neuromorphic computing that uses large scale computer systems containing electronic circuits to mimic these spikes in a machine.

    Notably, one billion neurons are one per cent of the scale of the human brain, which consists of just under 100 billion brain cells, or neurons, which are all highly interconnected via approximately one quadrillion synapses.

Significance

  • SpiNNaker will help neuroscientists better understand how our own brain works.
  • It has also simulated a region of the brain called the Basal Ganglia – an area affected in Parkinson’s disease, thus, it has massive potential for neurological breakthroughs in science such as pharmaceutical testing.
  • It can be used to control robot which can interpret real-time visual information and navigate towards certain objects while ignoring others.
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