The Roadrunner supercomputer built by IBM is being used by researchers at Los Alamos National Laboratory to mimic extremely complex neurological processes.
The machine is the world's first supercomputer to achieve sustained operating performance speeds of one petaflops, which means that it can process a million billion calculations each second.
Los Alamos and IBM researchers have revealed that they have used three different computational codes to test Roadrunner's performance, and one of those codes was 'PetaVision' that models the human visual system-mimicking more than one billion visual neurons and trillions of synapses.
On Saturday, the researchers used PetaVision to model more than a billion visual neurons surpassing the scale of 1 quadrillion computations a second (a petaflop/s).
On Monday, they used PetaVision to reach a new computing performance record of 1.144 petaflop/s.
According to the researchers, the achievement throws open the door to eventually achieving human-like cognitive performance in electronic computers.
PetaVision only requires single precision arithmetic, whereas the official LINPACK code used to officially verify Roadrunner's speed uses double precision arithmetic.
"Roadrunner ushers in a new era for science at Los Alamos National Laboratory. Just a week after formal introduction of the machine to the world, we are already doing computational tasks that existed only in the realm of imagination a year ago," said Terry Wallace, associate director for Science, Technology and Engineering at Los Alamos.
The researchers say that the results of PetaVision's inaugural trials indicate that it may be possible to study in real time the entire human visual cortex, which is considered to be the most important sensory apparatus.
The ability to achieve human levels of cognitive performance on a digital computer could lead to important insights and revolutionary technological applications, including "smart" cameras that can recognize danger or an autopilot system for automobiles that could take over for incapacitated drivers in complex situations such as navigating dense urban traffic.