Summary Box: IBM wants chips to behave like brains

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THE BREAKTHROUGH: IBM says it has built two prototype chips that it says process data more like how humans digest information than the chips that now power PCs and supercomputers.

THE INVESTMENT: It’s been a six-year-long project involving 100 researchers and some $41 million in funding from the government’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA. IBM has also committed an undisclosed amount of money.

LIMITS: The uses of the IBM chips so far are prosaic, such as steering a simulated car through a maze, or playing Pong. It may be a decade or longer before the chips go into actual products.