Better late than never: Intel neural chips & memristors, but with a spin…

By Massimiliano Versace | June 18, 2012

Charles Augustine at Intel's Circuit Research Laboratory in Hillsboro, Oregon, and a few of his colleagues unveil their design for a neuromorphic chip based on memristors and spin valves. Neurdons have heard this before... Once upon a time, in a galaxy far, far away....

... there was the DARPA SyNAPSE program. As many of you recall, several attempts at large-scale neuromorphic engineering have been made in the past. None met their goals. As such, SyNAPSE owes its existence to a number of recent game-changing developments. From HP Labs, the discovery of the memristor was one such keystone innovation. It took Greg Snider's 2007 work in Nanotechnology, however, to establish memristors as a viable platform for the implementation of self-organizing recurrent neural networks.

The new twist from Intel is the use of spin devices, or lateral spin valves. A spin valve is a device consisting of two or more conducting magnetic materials that align "up" or "down" depending on an external magnetic fields. Augustine and co argue that that the architecture they've designed works in a similar way to neurons and can therefore be used to test various ways of reproducing the brain's processing ability. Here is the link go the article. The claim of their work is huge energy saving: “We show that the spin-based neuromorphic designs can achieve 15X-300X lower computation energy,”.

This claim seems to me a bit out of the blue and unsupported, but it is surely an interesting paper, and something to read in the wake of interest started in 2007.

About Massimiliano Versace

Massimiliano Versace is co-founder and CEO of Neurala Inc. and founding Director of the Boston University Neuromorphics Lab. He is a pioneer in researching and bringing to market large scale, deep learning neural models that allow robots to interact and learn real-time in complex environments. He has authored approximately forty among journal articles, book chapters, and conference papers, holds several patents, and has been an invited speaker at dozens of academic and business meetings, research and national labs, and companies, including NASA, Los Alamos National Laboratory, Air Force Research Labs, Hewlett-Packard, iRobot, Qualcomm, Ericsson, BAE Systems, Mitsubishi, and Accenture, among others. His work has been featured in over thirty articles, news programs, and documentaries, including IEEE Spectrum, New Scientist, Geek Magazine, CNN, MSNBC and others. Massimiliano is a Fulbright scholar and holds two Ph.Ds: Experimental Psychology, University of Trieste, Italy; Cognitive and Neural Systems, Boston University, USA. He obtained his BS from University of Trieste, Italy.

4 Responses to Better late than never: Intel neural chips & memristors, but with a spin…

  1. Jeff says:


    Has the DARPA SyNAPSE program concluded?

  2. James says:

    DARPA SyNAPSE has not concluded. They are currently in the third phase of a five-phase program. Each phase is to last no more than 18 months. The current phase started in summer 2011, so it is still budgeted for another 6 to 12 months. Funding for later phases is conditional on the success of the current phase, however.

    They’re currently working on building a multi-chip neuromorphic system containing a million emulated neurons and a billion synapses. No news yet on how that is progressing, as far as I know. It’d be a major success if they do achieve it. We’ll see.

  3. zeev says:

    excellent development.

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