Originally Published: August 30, 2011, on EGMNOW.COM

THE BUZZ: IBM’s working on a new type of “cognitive computer chip” that not only performs preprogrammed functions, but can also learn and recognize elements in its environment and react to them—including play videogames—in a way similar to the human brain.

WHAT WE KNOW: IBM says their research team set up two prototype chips that “successfully demonstrated simple applications like navigation, machine vision, pattern recognition, associative memory, and classification.” One of the highlights came when they pointed out one chip in particular “taught itself how to play Pong,” which served as one of their first tests for cognitive recognition.

EGM’S TAKE: In terms of real-world applications, these chips could provide “smart” traffic signals, water-supply monitoring, or natural-disaster prediction. On a more personal note, imagine these chips in your iPad—or even your videogames—as they learn from your daily interaction. Developers could guarantee that no two gamers would have the same experience, as these smartchips could change a given game to challenge you specifically. Personally, I’d like to be the first to welcome our new computer overlords, as this is how a lot of apocalyptic science-fiction novels start: Computers that can think like humans then start to out-think humans. In all seriousness, I don’t know if it will ever get to that, but the applications for a chip like this are intriguing…if a bit frightening.