Los Alamos National Laboratory unveiled last week their new Roadrunner supercomputer. The system is the first computer able to reach petaflop (1,000,000,000,000,000 calculations per second) processing speeds. The system, amazingly enough, is based off of IBM’s cell processor technology that is used in the Playstation 3.
When the system isn’t being used to run an amazingly smooth GTA IV, it is modeling complex neurologic processes that can only be modeled with a petaflop system. One of these models, PetaVision, is a simulation of the human visual processing system. Here is more on the system from Los Alamos:
PetaVision models the human visual system–mimicking more than 1 billion visual neurons and trillions of synapses. Neurons are nerve cells that process information in the brain. Neurons communicate with each other using synaptic connections, analogous to what transistors are in modern computer chips. Synapses store memories and play a vital role in learning.
Synapses set the scale for computations performed by the brain while undertaking such tasks as locomotion, hearing or vision. Because there are about a quadrillion synapses in the human brain, human cognition is a petaflop/s computational problem.
To date, computers have been unable to match human performance on such visual tasks as flawlessly detecting an oncoming automobile on the highway or distinguishing a friend from a stranger in a crowd of people. Roadrunner is now changing the game.
Based on the results of PetaVision’s inaugural trials, Los Alamos researchers believe they can study in real time the entire human visual cortex–arguably a human being’s most important sensory apparatus.
The ability to achieve human levels of cognitive performance on a digital computer could lead to important insights and revolutionary technological applications. Such applications include “smart” cameras that can recognize danger or an autopilot system for automobiles that could take over for incapacitated drivers in complex situations such as navigating dense urban traffic.
Read more from Los Alamos here…