Universities join IBM in cognitive computing research project

Computers can process data, but eventually they may 'think' in ways that humans do

IBM and four universities are planning a research project into cognitive computing, which seeks to build computers that operate in a manner closer to the human mind.

The goal is to create systems that extend well beyond Watson, IBM's computer that famously competed on the trivia game show Jeopardy and defeated two former champions, IBM said in a news release.

The project will be undertaken with Carnegie Mellon University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, New York University and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, IBM said.

IBM linked the research with "big data," the term for using computers in new ways to process large volumes of structured and unstructured data in order to make it more accessible and useful.

Topics to be explored include how applications can boost group decision making, how processing power and algorithms apply to artificial intelligence, how systems should be designed for more natural interaction and how deep learning impacts automated pattern recognition in science.

IBM said there is a need for additional research to identify systems and processes to support computing models that allow systems and people to work together in different domains of expertise.

It is hoped that cognitive computers will process natural language and unstructured data, learning by experience as humans do, according to IBM's website.

Computer won't replace people, but will "act as a decision support system and help them make decisions, whether in health care, finance or customer service," the company wrote.

"Computers today are just very large, very fast number crunchers and information manipulators," IBM wrote. "They can process lots of data, but they really don't think. "

IBM is already working on a project called Systems of Neuromorphic Adaptive Plastic Scalable Electronics or SyNAPSE, which seeks to imitate how neurons receive sensory input and connect. The goal of that project is to mimic the brain's computing efficiency, size and power usage -- without being programmed.

Send news tips and comments to jeremy_kirk@idg.com. Follow me on Twitter: @jeremy_kirk

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