The ambitious DARPA sponsored SyNAPSE (Systems of Neuromorphic Adaptive Plastic Scalable Electronics) project, launched in early 2009, aims to “investigate innovative approaches that enable revolutionary advances in neuromorphic electronic devices that are scalable to biological levels.” DARPA has awarded funds to three prime contractors: HP, IBM, and HRL. Several researchers within CELEST are members of teams that are subcontractors to two of the three companies awarded a SyNAPSE contract: HP and HRL. SyNAPSE is a complex, multi-faceted project, but traces its roots to two fundamental problems.
First, many traditional computer algorithms perform poorly in the complex, real-world environments where animals, including humans, thrive. Second, traditional microprocessors are extremely inefficient at executing highly distributed, data-intensive algorithms, whereas biological computation, in contrast, is highly distributed and deeply data-intensive. SyNAPSE seeks to develop a new generation of nanotechnology necessary for the efficient implementation of such algorithms. Recent and current CELEST research is an important source of design principles, mechanisms, and architectures that describe how brains control autonomous learning and performance in response to non-stationary environments. In addition, CELEST houses computational modelers, neuroscientists, psychologists, and engineers that work collaboratively. Thus, CELEST researchers were contracted by our industrial SyNAPSE partners to provide models of vision, object recognition, decision making, planning, and navigation to be implemented in nonclassical hardware platforms currently under development. The ultimate goal of SyNAPSE is to embed in neuromorphic chips biomimetic neural networks that can achieve self-stabilizing adaptive intelligent behaviors in real-world environments.