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A group of Chinese researchers has created a chip that combines conventional computing architecture with that inspired by the human brain, a development the team claims could lead to more generalized artificial intelligence (AI), according to research published this week in Nature.

Why it matters: China has laid out ambitious goals for its AI development, aiming to be a world leader in the technology by 2030. However, the country is largely dependent on foreign-made chips to provide the computing power for its intelligent platforms.

  • While the researchers’ claim that the chip could lead to artificial general intelligence (AGI)—intellect that is typically at least on par with human-level cross-domain intelligence—is probably overblown, the processor does draw attention to China’s progress in developing chips designed to run AI algorithms.

“Our study is expected to stimulate AGI development by paving the way to more generalized hardware platform.”

— Authors of the research wrote in Nature.

Details: The chip, dubbed Tianjic, was developed by Shi Luping, an academic at Tsinghua University, along with a team of researchers largely based in China.

  • The researchers demonstrated the capabilities of the hybrid chip in a self-driving bicycle (video above).
  • The chip is able to simultaneously process algorithms on the dual architectures, enabling the bicycle to balance itself, avoid obstacles, track objects, and react to voice commands, the authors said.
  • The researchers added that the separation of a computer science-based approach and a neuroscience-based approach to AI is “retarding the development of AGI.”

Context: The US-China trade war has drawn attention to China’s dependence on foreign-made technology, with US lawmakers using this reliance as a bargaining chip.

  • In May, the US put telecommunications giant Huawei on a trade blacklist, prohibiting American companies from selling components that could pose a national security threat if misappropriated to the Chinese company.
  • Major chip designer Arm had to cut ties with Huawei as the company uses US-made technology in its products.
  • While China is behind in traditional chipmaking, AI chips present a unique opportunity for the country. China could use its AI prowess and huge amounts of data to push ahead in designing chips to run AI algorithms.

Chris Udemans

Christopher Udemans is TechNode's former Shanghai-based data and graphics reporter. He covered Chinese artificial intelligence, mobility, cleantech, and cybersecurity.

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