Menu
New 'moonshot challenge' at Harvard aims for giant leap in AI

New 'moonshot challenge' at Harvard aims for giant leap in AI

The $28 million project will generate more than a petabyte of data to advance machine learning

Humanity has big hopes for artificial intelligence, but in reality machines have a long way to go to catch up with the human brain. Enter Harvard University, which has just won a $28 million grant to change all that.

The grant aims to help scientists figure out why mammalian brains are so good at learning, and then design better computers accordingly. Harvard researchers will record activity in the brain's visual cortex in "unprecedented detail," map its connections and then reverse-engineer the data to inspire better computer algorithms for learning.

“This is a moonshot challenge, akin to the Human Genome Project in scope,” said project leader David Cox, assistant professor of molecular and cellular biology and computer science at Harvard.

The grant was awarded by The Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity (IARPA), part of the U.S. government's Office of the Director of National Intelligence. 

Simply recording the activity of so many neurons and mapping their connections has "enormous" scientific value, Cox said, but that's only part of the project. "As we figure out the fundamental principles governing how the brain learns, it's not hard to imagine that we’ll eventually be able to design computer systems that can match, or even outperform, humans.”

Applications for such systems could include detecting network invasions, reading MRI images and driving cars.

To make it happen, researchers will first train rats to recognize various objects on a computer screen. Cox’s team will record the activity of the rats' visual neurons using laser microscopes built for the purpose with collaborators at Rockefeller University.

Next, the rats' brains will be studied physically using what Harvard says is the world’s first multi-beam scanning electron microscope in the university's Center for Brain Science.

The resulting petabyte or so of data will be analyzed to reconstruct cell boundaries, synapses and connections, and visualize them in three dimensions. Eventually, the researchers aim to build better algorithms for learning and pattern recognition.

“This project is not only pushing the boundaries of brain science, it is also pushing the boundaries of what is possible in computer science,” said Hanspeter Pfister, the An Wang Professor of Computer Science at Harvard. “We will reconstruct neural circuits at an unprecedented scale from petabytes of structural and functional data. This requires us to make new advances in data management, high-performance computing, computer vision and network analysis.”


Follow Us

Join the New Zealand Reseller News newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Featured

Slideshows

Kiwi channel comes together for another round of After Hours

Kiwi channel comes together for another round of After Hours

The channel came together for another round of After Hours, with a bumper crowd of distributors, vendors and partners descending on The Jefferson in Auckland. Photos by Maria Stefina.​

Kiwi channel comes together for another round of After Hours
Consegna comes to town with AWS cloud offerings launch in Auckland

Consegna comes to town with AWS cloud offerings launch in Auckland

Emerging start-up Consegna has officially launched its cloud offerings in the New Zealand market, through a kick-off event held at Seafarers Building in Auckland.​ Founded in June 2016, the Auckland-based business is backed by AWS and supported by a global team of cloud specialists, leveraging global managed services partnerships with Rackspace locally.

Consegna comes to town with AWS cloud offerings launch in Auckland
Veritas honours top performing trans-Tasman partners

Veritas honours top performing trans-Tasman partners

Veritas honoured its top performing partners across the channel in Australia and New Zealand, recognising innovation and excellence on both sides of the Tasman. Revealed under the Vivid lights in Sydney, Intalock claimed the coveted Partner of the Year 2017 (Pacific) award, with Data#3 acknowledged for 12 months of strong growth across the market. Meanwhile, Datacom took home the New Zealand honours, with Global Storage and Insentra winning service provider and consulting awards respectively. Dicker Data was recognised as the standout distributor of the year, while Hitachi Data Systems claimed the alliance partner award. Photos by Bob Seary.

Veritas honours top performing trans-Tasman partners
Show Comments