Brains and machines: Back to neuromorphic engineering

Screen Grab from EETimes.After some time off to focus on teaching at UCL, in the last couple of years I’ve been starting to write about neuromorphic engineering (and other topics related to intelligent machines) again. This started at the beginning of 2018 when I wrote a case study on photonics in neuromorphic systems for my book on reporting on emerging technologies. Last year I wrote a feature for Nature Electronics delayed special issue on neuromorphic computing (now scheduled to come out this summer) and this year I’ve started writing for EETimes again. I commissioned a special project on the subject for them and have also started writing a regular column on Brains and Machines.

My passion for this subject is greater than ever, and I am working on a book on this subject. More as the work develops.


Video talks on Neuromorphic Engineering

I’m in the process of trying to write a book with Ralph Etienne-Cummings of Johns Hopkins University on neuromorphic engineering. Just at the point where I was supposed to be travelling to lots of conferences for research, Covid-19 happened. Papers are great, but getting the context for work directly from scientists and engineers is always a good way of getting started, so I looked for material to watch online (to create my own virtual conference).

With special thanks to Gert Cauwenberghs, Roxana Alexandru, and Elisabetta Chicca for their suggestions, and to my arms for a couple of days of typing, I’m now able to share with everyone the list of videos I compiled.  Read More …

New paper: Being Analog

IMG_0957I attended the 3rd International Workshop on Optical SuperComputing in Bertinoro, Italy, back in November. I don’t get out so much these days, so I was pretty shocked when a total of 10 people showed up (or was it 11, you’d think I’d remember!) It’s a shame, because there is some interesting stuff going on in this field…

In any case, despite a couple talks delivered remotely, the program turned out to be pretty thin (perhaps not surprising given the attendance). So I offered to give a presentation about my stuff, even though it’s not strictly about optical. The talk, called Being Analog, was well received, so they asked me to write it up as a paper for Springer’s Lecture Notes on Computer Science (which had a deal to do the proceedings). Uploaded it today: so here it is, hot off the presses, if you’re interested.

Photo: The view out of my window from Bertinoro Castle.

Originally posted on Brains and Machines.

A silicon spinal cord?

CurrentcoverThere has been a huge amount of progress in the area of using brain probes to read our intentions, and then relay those to a limb that would otherwise be paralyzed (or, for that matter, to a prosthetic limb). I’ve written about related subjects in the past, both for EE Times and the IEE (now IET), but was really impressed to see that there has now been a full demonstration of the technology (albeit, in a monkey) and that there are new clinical trials underway to show how implanted brain probes can help real human patients. There’s also an important trend towards wireless implants. If you’re interested in this, you might want to read my new piece in New Scientist magazine on the subject. Read More …

Analog for all?

If you’ve been following my analog posts you’ll know that one of my concerns has been that we don’t train enough engineers who are really comfortable working in this area.

Analog has two major problems: not only is it just generally more difficult to design (much harder maths!), but once you do you have to go and have a chip fabricated (i.e. spend time and money) to see how it works in practice. Digital designers have an easier job to begin with, better tools, and can reliably simulate using systems like field-programmable gate arrays (FPGAs) if they’d rather not work in software simulation alone. Plus there are a gazillion of them, which also helps them to make progress! Read More …

Hail to the neuromorphic engineers

This robot is driven by a circuit based on the nervous system of a lobster.Mark Tilden changed my life. In about 1998 I started to become interested in analog computing for intelligence and came across a paper called Living Machines Mark wrote with Brosl Hasslacher a few years earlier. In it they talked about analog electronic creatures that were were very different to any other robots I had seen before. The ‘nervous networks’ that drove them were made of very few transistors, capacitors, and resistors—dozens rather than hundreds—and yet they, together, performed a rich, natural, and robust set of behaviors. The sun-seeking robots were even being used for interesting applications like satellite guidance and mine-clearing. It was a great story and it helped me understand what was important about intelligence in a way I hadn’t before. Read More …