Researchers from the University of California and Italy's Politecnico di Torino say they have built the first working prototype of a memory-crunching computer (memcomputer).
Modern computers solve problems by crunching numbers and storing results in completely separate processes, but a memcomputer would perform these functions simultaneously, and thus would work more like the human brain.
The team developed a new computer design based on what they call memprocessors, which have the ability to change their own properties--such as electrical resistance--depending on factors such as how much energy is passing through. As a result, the processors are able to store information in a new way, even as they continue processing.
The team used the prototype to solve the NP-complete version of the subset sum problem, proving that it works.
The researchers note the prototype suffers from noise, which prevents it from being scaled up. However, they say improvements could lead to dedicated machines that are capable of performing individual tasks really well.
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