Bioengineers at Stanford University (Stanford), California, have developed a new circuit board modeled on the human brain, which they said possibly opens new frontiers in robotics and computing including implications for use in driving prosthetic limbs.
Kwabena Boahen, PhD, an associate professor of bioengineering at Stanford, and his team have developed Neurogrid, a circuit board, about the size of an Apple® iPad, consisting of 16 custom-designed “Neurocore” chips. Together these 16 chips can simulate one million neurons and billions of synaptic connections, and the circuit board is about 100,000 times more energy efficient than an equivalent personal computer simulation. The prototype cost $40,000 to fabricate.
The National Institutes of Health funded development of this prototype with a five-year Pioneer Award. Now Boahen is ready for the next steps: lowering costs and creating compiler software that would enable engineers and computer scientists with no knowledge of neuroscience to solve problems such as controlling a humanoid robot using Neurogrid.
Boahen is also working with other Stanford scientists to develop prosthetic limbs for paralyzed people that would be controlled by a Neurocore-like chip. For instance, a chip as fast and efficient as the human brain could drive prosthetic limbs with the speed and complexity of our own actions, but without being tethered to a power source. A small prosthetic arm in Boahen’s lab is currently controlled by Neurogrid to execute movement commands in real time.
Editor’s note: This story was adapted from materials provided by Stanford University.