Qualcomm wants to bring 'brains' to smartphones, tablets

Qualcomm's new Zeroth chip is designed to mimic the human brain

Qualcomm's Zeroth chip, inspired by the brain

Qualcomm's Zeroth chip, inspired by the brain

Qualcomm wants to make tablets and smartphones more perceptive by giving the devices a "silicon brain," company CEO Paul Jacobs said Wednesday.

The company wants to load mobile devices with its Zeroth processor, which is being designed to mimic a human brain, Jacobs said, during a speech at the company's annual investor meeting in New York. The chip can learn human patterns and anticipate actions, which could make interaction with mobile devices easier.

"This is the beginning of devices that are smart," Jacobs said. "It is a far-out research project, but it works."

The Zeroth chip is designed around neural systems and mimics the brain's structure and operation through circuitry and algorithms.

Brains are "low-power, highly parallel systems," Jacobs said. The size of a brain is one aspect of learning capacity, so Qualcomm will build smaller brains for smaller devices, and larger brains for larger devices, Jacobs said.

Qualcomm is one of the world's top mobile chip makers. Its Snapdragon chips are used in many of the top smartphones and tablets.

The Zeroth chip can dynamically rewire to sense, understand and act on input from information sources. Qualcomm has already shown a robot equipped with Zeroth that was able to make correct decisions based on progressive learning and input.

Zeroth's computing mechanism is a step up from current computing methodologies, which require set programming by humans to generate results. Current computers also have scaling issues tied to power consumption.

"Instead of preprogramming behaviors and outcomes with a lot of code, we've developed a suite of software tools that enable devices to learn as they go and get feedback from their environment," wrote Samir Kumar, Qualcomm's director of business development, in an October blog entry explaining the Zeroth processor.

This is not the first effort to reverse engineer the brain into silicon. IBM is trying to develop a neuromorphic chip through its SyNAPSE program and demonstrated a prototype chip in August 2011. Intel has also proposed a neuromorphic chip design. The Human Brain Project, funded by the European Union, aims to re-create the spiking neurons and synapses phenomena in brains on silicon chips within a power budget of 1 watt.

Even now, phones are learning a lot based on patterns, Jacobs said, but Zeroth chips could help build more sophisticated devices.

"We are investing in a lot of cool technologies," Jacobs said.

Agam Shah covers PCs, tablets, servers, chips and semiconductors for IDG News Service. Follow Agam on Twitter at @agamsh. Agam's e-mail address is agam_shah@idg.com

Join the PC World newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags popular scienceconsumer electronicsroboticssmartphoneshardware systemsqualcommComponentstabletsprocessors

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Agam Shah

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Azadeh Williams

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

A smarter way to print for busy small business owners, combining speedy printing with scanning and copying, making it easier to produce high quality documents and images at a touch of a button.

Andrew Grant

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

I've had a multifunction printer in the office going on 10 years now. It was a neat bit of kit back in the day -- print, copy, scan, fax -- when printing over WiFi felt a bit like magic. It’s seen better days though and an upgrade’s well overdue. This HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 looks like it ticks all the same boxes: print, copy, scan, and fax. (Really? Does anyone fax anything any more? I guess it's good to know the facility’s there, just in case.) Printing over WiFi is more-or- less standard these days.

Ed Dawson

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

As a freelance writer who is always on the go, I like my technology to be both efficient and effective so I can do my job well. The HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 Inkjet Printer ticks all the boxes in terms of form factor, performance and user interface.

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS 13

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Aysha Strobbe

Windows 10 / HP Spectre x360

Ultimately, I think the Windows 10 environment is excellent for me as it caters for so many different uses. The inclusion of the Xbox app is also great for when you need some downtime too!

Mark Escubio

Windows 10 / Lenovo Yoga 910

For me, the Xbox Play Anywhere is a great new feature as it allows you to play your current Xbox games with higher resolutions and better graphics without forking out extra cash for another copy. Although available titles are still scarce, but I’m sure it will grow in time.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?