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Intel chips learn to smell

Intel's Loihi, a neuromorphic research chip are now capable of identifying hazardous smells. The chips might also help us in understanding the spread of COVID-19 better.

Intel’s neuromorphic chip, Loihi has learned to smell according to a recent report from PCWorld. Intel collaborated with Cornell University in order to train the Loihi chip to recognize the scent of 10 potentially hazardous chemicals, like acetone, ammonia, and methane. This artificial olfactory device is closer in function to a dog’s nose, or those handheld detectors are seen at an airport to ‘smell’ traces of explosive materials.

How Loihi does this is a little different from just detecting the chemical emitting the smell. Intel and Cornell modelled what happens in a human brain when it detects a smell,with the help of 72 chemical sensors. In other words, what signals your brain generates when your olfactory cells, or the nerves in your nose, are stimulated.

Intel developed the Loihi chip back in 2017 in order to mimic the functioning of a human brain.Intel isn’t the only one currently researching neuromorphic computing, which is a specific area of artificial intelligence (AI). Neuromorphic computing is also being investigated by IBM, HPE, MIT, Purdue, Stanford, and others.

Intel is also looking for uses of its “Pohoiki Springs” network,which is built from 768 of its Loihi neuromorphic chips, in a number of different applications, one of which could be to help combat COVID-19. Pohoiki Springs will be used for machine learning application which also helps researchers analyse the spreading of the coronavirus. I

n a statement, Intel said that while Pohoiki Springs won’t replace every-day computing systems, “they provide a tool for researchers to develop and characterize new neuro-inspired algorithms for real-time processing, problem-solving, adaptation and learning.” The Pohoiki Springs will be able to generate different scenarios about how the coronavirus might continue thus helping the scientists to learn the best possible method of stopping and slowing it.

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