Sunday, March 11, 2007


Jeff Hawkins is the kind of dreamer who takes another shot at AI-like stuff, putting his money into it. But given his impressive record as the man behind the PalmPilot and the Treo, and as the inventor of Graffiti, I was willing to read an article about the new company he founded in 2005. See

Donna Dubinsky is the CEO.

The claim is that “algorithms that Numenta has come up with allow machines to learn from observation, just as a child learns by observing the world around her”. But that is accompanied by Hawkin’s statement that “Numenta has nothing to do with the field known as artificial intelligence”. Someone would have to explain that to me! Why isn’t that AI? Possibly it borrows little from techniques known to scholars of AI. However, once you claim to build an algorithm that enables machines to learn from observation, you cannot disown AI. Hawkins claims that his work is inspired by how the brain works.

Dileep George, a Stanford Alumnus, is credited with contributions to algorithm development. An early demo, that the algorithm was used to give, dealt with recognition of animated images like those of a cat, dog and so on. The basic concept is called “hierarchical temporal memory”, involving a hierarchy of nodes for storing patterns and sequences of patterns.

The company plans to release a Beta version of the software and some development tools soon.

Is the idea going to turn out into a simple one? Even if it does, it could be a useful step forward. After all, notions like Finite State Automata, Perceptrons, and Pattern Matching Algorithms have served AI well. I for one would be waiting to read more about Numenta.

Srinivasan Ramani

No comments: