Building a brain IBM researchers aren't the only ones building computer chips that mimic the brain. A group at Stanford University developed a system called "Neurogrid" that can simulate a million neurons and billions of synapses.
But while Neurogrid requires 16 chips linked together, the IBM chip can simulate the same number of neurons with only a single chip, Modha said. In addition, Neurogrid's memory is stored off-chip, but the new IBM system integrates both computation and memory on the same chip, which minimizes the time needed to transmit data, Modha said.
Kwabena Boahen, an electrical engineer at Stanford who led the development of the Neurogrid system, called the IBM chip "a very impressive achievement." (Several of Boahen's colleagues on the Neurogrid project have gone on to work at IBM, he said.)
The IBM team was able to fit more transistors onto a single chip, while making it very energy efficient, Boahen told Live Science. Greater energy efficiency means you could compute things directly on your phone instead of relying on cloud computing, the way Apple's voice-controlled Siri program operates, he said. That is, Siri outsources the computation to other computers via a network instead of performing it locally on a device.