AI computer chips powered by human neurons being developed

An Australia-based startup, Cortical Labs, has just announced that they plan to build the “first hybrid computer chip.” The company is building computer chips using actual neurons extracted from mice, and will eventually use human neurons to create powerful compute systems, Futurism reports.

Cortical Labs aims to make computer chips that can mimic the way the brain operates, using actual human neurons, to finally create an artificial intelligence system that is powered by significantly less energy. The company plans to “build technology that harnesses the power of synthetic biology and the full potential of the human brain,” creating a new class of A.I., according to an announcement.

Hon Weng Chong, Cortical Labs co-founder and CEO, tells Fortune that the company uses two methods to extract neurons. The first method involves extracting neurons from mice embryo. The second method is more complex: transforming human skin cells back into stem cells, and inducing them to grow into human neurons. After extraction, neurons are embedded in a “nourishing liquid medium on top of a specialized metal-oxide chip containing a grid of 22,000 tiny electrodes.” This grid acts as the I/O medium between programmers and the neurons.

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Cortical Labs aims to master the game Pong by the end of the year. The company is starting with that game due to its significance for its work with the A.I company DeepMind, before being acquired by Google. However, Cortical Labs is still using mouse neurons while working with Pong. “What we are trying to do is show we can shape the behavior of these neurons,” Chong said.

Cortical Labs has made significant progress since being founded only in June 2019. The company, surprisingly, only started off with $610,000 of seed funding from Blackbird Ventures, an Australian VC.

Neural Networks are all the rage right now, with multiple startups developing their own biology-based computing systems. Brain-machine interfaces are also becoming quite popular, with many companies (notably Neuralink) racing to develop even consumer products based on such technology. Learn about Cortical Labs on the company’s website, or check out its Medium blog post.

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