DARPA pulls funds for brain software project

Tech Culture

The U.S. government's Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has reportedly decided not to fund the next stage of an ambitious university project to map the human brain, according to a report from the New Jersey Star Ledger.

The project, called Biologically Inspired Cognitive Architectures (BICA), began in 2005 as a joint research effort of more than a dozen universities, including Rutgers, Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Their goal was to map the brain's billions of neurons in computer algorithms, paving the way for new software that could augment military operations with "smart" vehicles or robots, according to the report.

DARPA allotted about $9.5 million to the project's first phase, which was to designed to lay out the scope of the project. The agency was then expected to invest $50 million to $100 million in the next five-year phase, which was meant to design and test the software. Project manager David Gunning said in the article that "DARPA has decided to not pursue BICA phase 2."

Still, so-called cognitive computing is thriving in the private sector.

The Blue Brain project, for example, is a collaboration of IBM, the Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne, or EPFL, in Lausanne, Switzerland, and others. The project is an attempt to create a blueprint of the human brain to advance cognition research. And Jeff Hawkins, the man behind Palm Computing, founded a company called Numenta, which is building a computer memory platform modeled after the human brain. That platform lets developers create applications for computer vision, artificial intelligence, robotics and machine learning.

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