Spaun artificial brain can see, write, and answer basic IQ questions

Spaun artificial brain

Researchers across the world continue to make advances towards using technology to mimic the human brain, and scientists at the University of Waterloo have created their own functioning model that can even pass the kind of basic questions that appear on a standard IQ test. Known as Spaun — Semantic Pointer Architecture Unified Network — the artificial brain uses a supercomputer to model 2.5 million neurons (by way of comparison, the human brain is thought to have up to 100 billion neurons). Spaun features an electronic "eye" that lets it receive input in the form of 28 x 28-pixel images, and uses a robotic arm to scrawl its answers on paper.

At the moment Spaun can perform eight different pre-defined taks, including counting number progressions, reproducing the way in which a number it sees is styled, and recognizing number patterns — the kind of question one would find on an IQ test. Different areas of the brain are modeled to perform the various functions necessary, with the virtual thalamus performing visual processing, for example. This organic approach leads to a system that doesn't necessarily perform flawlessly all the time — in one video, the researchers show how Spaun has problems storing large strings of numbers in its short-term memory, just like humans do — but they say that those failings actually make it easier to determine whether Spaun is accurately modeling the human brain.

The researchers have published their latest findings about Spaun in a recent article in Science. While it's clear that models such as this are still a long way from the kind of artificial intelligence we dream of in science fiction and fantasy, the combination of powerful computing and neuroscience appear to be bringing us towards that threshold at an increasingly accelerated clip.

The Verge
Log In Sign Up

Log In Sign Up

Please choose a new Verge username and password

As part of the new Verge launch, prior users will need to choose a permanent username, along with a new password.

Your username will be used to login to Verge going forward.

I already have a Vox Media account!

Verify Vox Media account

Please login to your Vox Media account. This account will be linked to your previously existing Eater account.

Please choose a new Verge username and password

As part of the new Verge launch, prior MT authors will need to choose a new username and password.

Your username will be used to login to Verge going forward.

Forgot password?

We'll email you a reset link.

If you signed up using a 3rd party account like Facebook or Twitter, please login with it instead.

Forgot password?

Try another email?

Almost done,

By becoming a registered user, you are also agreeing to our Terms and confirming that you have read our Privacy Policy.



Choose an available username to complete sign up.

In order to provide our users with a better overall experience, we ask for more information from Facebook when using it to login so that we can learn more about our audience and provide you with the best possible experience. We do not store specific user data and the sharing of it is not required to login with Facebook.