Intel introduced what it claims is the world’s first self-learning chip earlier this week, debuting a device codenamed Loihi which it says should facilitate various efforts related to machine learning and general artificial intelligence advancements. The Santa Clara, California-based tech giant explained that its creation was designed to mimic the way in which a human brain operates, i.e. use external feedback to modify its behavior over time. While Loihi isn’t the first SoC meant to act as a human brain, it’s unique in the sense that it doesn’t have to be trained in order to get smarter and more efficient at whatever it’s tasked with doing, Intel said. The device is also said to be extremely energy-efficient and relies on asynchronous spiking for computational activities, which is yet another way in which it differentiates itself from its alternatives, its creators said.
Intel stated that Loihi is meant to be the latest step in its endeavors to contribute to AI research and development which the tech giant thinks is still in extremely early stages and hence requires a more basic approach to advancements. By designing a chip meant for neuromorphic computing, the company is hoping to assist independent researchers and its own experts in further improving AI technologies, providing them with a platform that operates much like the human brain, at least in regards to what science knows about the brain today. The chip itself entails digital circuits which are said to be extremely energy-efficient, in addition to mimicking some basic brain functions. The neural network-inspired design of the device may help it power solutions that are capable of organizing themselves in a more efficient manner, in addition to being better at using patterns and complex associations to reach decisions on various matters, according to Dr. Michael Mayberry, Corporate Vice President and Managing Director of Intel Labs.
The aforementioned mechanisms should amount to a relatively flexible chip which learns on its own and is able to reason based on the data it accumulates, with Loihi potentially allowing for relatively autonomous applications which don’t require a robust cloud network to do the computing for them. Coupled with its energy-efficient design, the creation could allow for various breakthroughs in the AI field related to self-sustainable applications. Intel intends to share the Loihi test chip with a number of top universities and research centers around the world in 2018, with the company stating that first units will reach scientists and researchers by June.