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AI built from living brain cells can recognise voices

Brainoware computer can identify people by their voice

Anthony Cuthbertson
Tuesday 12 December 2023 12:33 GMT
Brain organoids grown from stem cells have raised ethical concerns about how they are used
Brain organoids grown from stem cells have raised ethical concerns about how they are used (Stanford University)

Scientists have used living brain cells to build an artificial intelligence system capable of recognising different people’s voices.

The hybrid biocomputer integrated electronics into laboratory-grown human brain tissue in order to perform voice recognition tasks with an accuracy of 78 per cent.

The success of the AI experiment could lead to a new era powerful “Brainoware” computers, according to the team from Indiana University Bloomington in the US who built it.

“Brain-inspired computing hardware aims to emulate the structure and working principles of the brain and could be used to address current limitations in artificial intelligence technologies,” the researchers wrote in a paper, titled ‘Brain organoid reservoir computing for artificial intelligence’, published in the journal Nature Electronics on Monday.

“Due to the high plasticity and adaptability of organoids, Brainoware has the flexibility to change and reorganise in response to electrical stimulation, highlighting its ability for adaptive reservoir computing.”

The approach could also vastly reduce the energy demands of modern artificial intelligence systems, with current AI hardware consuming around 8 million watts to drive a neural network that the human brain could power with just 20 watts.

One of the brain organoids used in the AI study (Indiana University Bloomington)

Brain organoids are cultivated from stem cells and grown in a lab, offering ways to investigate everything from how the human brain works, to potential methods for treating neural diseases.

The increasingly complex nature of these lab-grown brain parts has led to ethical concerns about what constitutes a human, and at which point brain tissue can be considered a person.

Earlier this year, researchers in Japan and Taiwan proposed creating a legal framework for clarifying issues like informed consent, which could determine how brain organoids can be used and treated.

“Although human brain organoids do not constitute natural persons at present, the likelihood of their potential to become natural persons in the near future requires more thorough consideration in advance of that reality occurring,” said Hiroshima University researcher Masanori Kataoka, who led the research.

The latest Brainoware research remains a long way from touching on such concerns, with the AI-infused brain organoids capable of identifying a speaker but not understanding what they say.

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