The University of Manchester School of Computer Science's SpiNNaker machine, which consists of one million processors and is designed to mimic the human brain, was first turned on on November 2.
To reach this milestone, £ 15 million has been funded, firstly by the British Research Council for Engineering and Physical Sciences (EPSRC) and most recently by the European Human Brain Project. 20 years of conception and more than 10 years of construction in 2006.
SpiNaker stands for & # 39; Spiking Neural Network Architecture & # 39 ;, which we've already met in IBM's TrueNorth Rat Brain. While the TrueNorth chips are assembled into a "brain" consisting of 48 million neurons, the SpiNNaker machine can perform 200 trillion actions per second. This means that it can model more biological neurons in real time than any other machine ever built.
Unlike traditional computers, SpiNNaker does not communicate by sending large amounts of information from point A to point B over a standard network. Instead, it mimics the massively parallel communication architecture of the brain while sending billions of small amounts of information to thousands of different targets.
Steve Furber, professor of computer engineering, who developed the first idea for such a computer, said:
"SpiNNaker rethinks the way traditional computers work, we've essentially developed a machine that works like a brain rather than a conventional computer, which is extremely exciting.
The ultimate goal of the project has always been a million cores in a single computer for real-time brain modeling applications, and we've now achieved that, which is fantastic. "
Turning on the first time was not an easy task, and many man (and women) hours were devoted to the task, and they even needed a time-lapse shot to prove it.
For those interested in SpiNNaker system software, here's Manchester's Advanced Processor Technologies Research Group (APT) details:
The SpiNNaker runtime software includes three different devices:
- Host machine – for application I / O and monitoring.
- SpiNaker monitoring cores – for application support and system monitoring. In addition, one of them communicates with the host via Ethernet.
- SpiNaker application cores – to run applications.
The diagram above shows the SpiNNaker runtime software components used to support applications:
- ybug – [host software] interacts with scamp on the monitoring cores and provides a simple command / debug interface for launching applications and exploring storage and on-chip resources.
- scamp – [monitor core software] interacts with ybug on the host and sark on the application cores. Supports cross-system communication between processors and communication with the host.
- Sark – [application core software] interacts with scamp on the monitor core and provides the ability to use the core hardware / peripherals in an abstracted way. For example, start a 1ms timer, place an entry in the multicast routing table, or install a handler to handle the arrival of packets.
So, what is a million-core processor computer that mimics how a brain works? One of the basic applications is to help neuroscientists better understand the functioning of our own brain. For this purpose, real-time simulations are performed on a large scale, which are simply not possible on other machines.
For example, SpiNNaker was used to simulate real-time processing in a number of isolated brain networks. This includes an 80,000 neuron model of a cortex segment, the outer layer of the brain, which receives and processes information from the senses. It also simulated a region of the brain called the basal ganglia – an area affected by Parkinson's disease, which means there is tremendous potential for neurological breakthroughs in science, such as pharmaceutical testing.
Professor Furber commented:
"Neuroscientists can now use SpiNNaker to help solve some of the secrets of how the human brain works, by running unprecedented large-scale simulations, as well as acting as a real-time neuron simulator, enabling robots to scale large-scale neural networks into mobile robots Integrate, talk and move with flexibility and low performance. "
& # 39; human brain & # 39; Supercomputers with 1 million processors powered on for the first time
The TrueNorth Rat Brain from IBM
TrueNorth from IBM simulates 530 billion neurons
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