IBM's quest for cognitive computers hits a milestone: Simulating a cat's brain

The brain is an amazing thing. "It consumes less power than a light bulb and occupies less space than a two-liter bottle of soda," writes Dharmendra S. Modha, manager of cognitive computing at IBM (IBM), in his blog. Yet it performs functions no computer can -- many of them quite basic. Think of those blurry, squiggly jumbles of letters and numbers that web sites use to make sure they're dealing with a human being. Your brain can sense, perceive, reason, and coordinate different functions in a constantly changing environment; it can handle ambiguity and abstraction.

There's not an app for that -- yet. But computer scientists at IBM have a longterm goal of achieving cognitive computing, a mindlike artificial intelligence, allowing computers to handle far more complex systems, such as finding patterns throughout the Web, the way humans can pick out a face from a crowd.