Humanity just took one step closer to computers that mimic the brain. University of Southampton researchers have demonstrated that memristors, or resistors that remember their previous resistance, can power a neural network. The team’s array of metal-oxide memristors served as artificial synapses to learn (and re-learn) from “noisy” input without intervention, much like you would. And since the memristors will remember previous states when turned off, they should use much less power than conventional circuitry — ideal for Internet of Things devices that can’t afford to pack big batteries.
It’s still early days for this technology. If you wanted AI that could replicate the brain in its full glory, you’d need “hundreds of billions” of synapses (if not more). The far-simpler memristor array in this test was limited to looking for patterns. However, the Southampton group is quick to note that you wouldn’t need to go that far for narrower purposes. You could have sensors that know how to classify objects and identify patterns without human help, which would be particularly helpful in dangerous or hard-to-reach places. You might just see IoT gadgets that are not only connected to the outside world, but can make sense of it.