Wow of the week: Next generation of medical devices will be powered by microchips that mimic how brain works

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bigstock-Two-heads-of-people-with-mecha-25539083The complexities of how the brain processes information will soon be found on microchips. The technology could lead to a new generation of innovative medical devices and poses some exciting  applications for the medical industry. Qualcomm CTO Matt Grob said it will partner with researchers, startups and other companies to design and manufacture chips with applications that could include artificial vision sensors, robot controllers and brain implants, according to MIT Technology Review. He made the comments in a talk at the EmTech 2013 conference this week.

The new generation of microchips are structured in a similar way as the brain:  they  processes information in a distributed, parallel way, modeled after how the neurons and synapses work in a brain, according to the article. That’s a big change in the architecture of current computer systems that are built with separate units for storing information and processing it sequentially.

Qualcomm sees neural processing units as  reprogrammable with the ability to classify and predict. The vision is to scale this up for a platform, the article quoted Grob: “We want to make it easier for researchers to make a part of the brain.”

The brain-inspired software is already being used in prototypes designed by Qualcomm. It designed a car that can be told a destination and figure out the best way to get there through a learning process.

“The promise of this is a kind of machine that can learn, and be programmed without software—be programmed the way you teach your kid,” Grob said.

The drive to create this next generation of microchips has been underway for a few years by the likes of IBM and Intel.

You can watch Grob’s presentation with this link.

[Photo credit: Two heads of people with mechanical from BigStock Photo]

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Stephanie Baum

By Stephanie Baum

Stephanie Baum is the East Coast Innovation Reporter for She enjoys covering healthcare startups across health IT, drug development and medical devices and innovations deployed to improve medical care. She graduated from Franklin & Marshall College in Pennsylvania and has worked across radio, print and video. She's written for The Christian Science Monitor, Dow Jones & Co. and United Business Media.
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