Mini-Brain in the Cell Membrane

This Startup’s Computer Chips Are Powered by Human Neurons

Biological "hybrid computer chips" could drastically lower the amount of power required to run AI systems.

4. 1. 20 by Victor Tangermann
Images via Pikrepo/Victor Tangermann
Image by Images via Pikrepo/Victor Tangermann

Australian startup Cortical Labs is building computer chips that use biological neurons extracted from mice and humans, Fortune reports.

The goal is to dramatically lower the amount of power current artificial intelligence systems need to operate by mimicking the way the human brain.

According to Cortical Labs’ announcement, the company is planning to “build technology that harnesses the power of synthetic biology and the full potential of the human brain” in order to create a “new class” of AI that could solve “society’s greatest challenges.”

The mouse neurons are extracted from embryos, according to Fortune, but the human ones are created by turning skin cells back into stem cells and then into neurons.

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The idea of using biological neurons to power computers isn’t new. Cortical Labs’ announcement comes one week after a group of European researchers managed to turn on a working neural network that allows biological and silicon-based brain cells to communicate with each other over the internet.

Researchers at MIT have also attempted to use bacteria, not neurons, to  build a computing system in 2016.

As of right now, Cortical’s mini-brains have less processing power than a dragonfly brain. The company is looking to get its mouse-neuron-powered chips to be capable of playing a game of “Pong,” as CEO Hon Weng Chong told Fortune, following the footsteps of AI company DeepMind, which used the game to test the power of its AI algorithms back in 2013.

“What we are trying to do is show we can shape the behavior of these neurons,” Chong told Fortune.

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READ MORE: A startup is building computer chips using human neurons [Fortune]

More on neurons: Artificial and Biological Neurons Just Talked Over the Internet


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