Remember Watson, the IBM computer that beat Jeopardy's greatest champions? It looks like he's about to get a big brother. IBM and the Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) have teamed up to create two working prototypes of a "neurosynaptic chip," which is based on the human brain. And get this: IBM says the chips are capable of remembering their own actions and learning from them.
The details of the technology are confusing for those of us without a Ph.D. in computer science, but the basic idea is this: by modeling the chip on the brain, you get much more efficient and powerful information transfer. You also get a system that can adapt and learn based on the information that's flowing through it - sections of the chip will actually change to take on new roles when needed, just like sections of our brains do.
These prototypes represent the first two phases of a longer project, and they don't actually work like the human brain yet. But the scientists working on it believe this technology could one day turn computing on its head. Dharmendra Modha, the principal investigator on the project, says "the computers we have today are more like calculators. We want to make something more like the brain." As exciting as that sounds, let's hope this isn't the first step toward Skynet becoming self-aware.