Neuromorphic Computing: Meet Loihi! A chip that can actually smell!

With companies making strides in artificial intelligence and machine learning, intel may have made the most ultra-modern chip yet.

As coronavirus is endangering people’s ability to smell, intel’s latest chip named Loihi has been successfully trained to help us get the job done.

Putting that impudent humor aside, the chip is currently capable of smelling ten different hazardous chemicals.

Intel collaborated with Cornell University to train Loihi to interpret and distinguish smells associated with potentially hazardous chemicals. In the future, these electronic noses could be used to identify harmful substances, even diseases. The chip was trained by configuring the circuit schematic of biological olfaction, using a dataset compiling the activity of 72 chemical sensors in response to various scents.

In technical terms, Olfactory bulbs are specific to mammals, but other animals, like insects, also exhibit similar neural structures. Mike Davies, the director of Intel’s Neuromorphic Computing Lab says it means, “there’s probably something fairly fundamental and efficient about these implementations if evolution has arrived on them in different cases,”

Despite the chip being in the relatively early-stage prototype, once mature it could serve a number of applications, such as bomb-sniffing or the detection of lethal fumes in chemical plants. It also demonstrates the potential of neuromorphic computing for more data-efficient AI.

Davies aspirations don’t end here, he and his team will likely turn its attention to vision or touch next and has longer-term ambitions to tackle more complex processes.

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