RealTime IT News

Palm/Handspring Creators Venture Into The Brain

The founders of Palm and Handspring launched a new company Thursday to help unlock the secrets of the brain and apply them to computer science.

Jeff Hawkins and Donna Dubinsky are spearheading Numenta, along with co-founder Dileep George, a Ph.D. candidate at Stanford University, who will now serve as the principal engineer for the company. The company's name stems from "mentis," the Latin word for "mind."

The firm said it is dedicated to developing a new type of computer memory system modeled after the human neocortex, the portion of the brain involved in conscious thought, spatial reasoning and sensory perception.

But instead of fashioning Numenta as an application developer, the Menlo Park, Calif.-based venture will focus on the development of software tools and support services, as well as IP licensing.

Hawkins said he would still maintain his active role as CTO for palmOne.

Dubinsky, who was formerly co-founder and CEO of Handspring, as well as CEO of Palm Computing, will be Numenta's CEO.

"I'm delighted to be working with Jeff again to formulate a business out of his theories," Dubinsky said in a statement. "The Numenta vision is large in scope and long term. Although it may take several years before we have commercial products, the possibilities for this technology are exciting and broad."

The company said its founders, board members and close associates are financially funding the company at this time.

The company's first offering is a technology called Hierarchical Temporal Memory, or HTM, which is based on a theory of the neocortex described in Jeff Hawkins' book On Intelligence, which he co-authored with science journalist Sandra Blakeslee.

"My goal at Numenta is to put my brain theory into practice," Hawkins said in a statement. "We have the opportunity to build intelligent memory systems to solve difficult problems in computer science and artificial intelligence for which no other known solutions exist, such as general machine vision, language understanding and robotics."

Hawkins describes HTM as "hierarchical" because it consists of memory modules connected in a hierarchical fashion and "temporal" because each memory module stores and recalls sequences of patterns.

Numenta said it is working on a software toolkit that will let developers and partners configure and adapt HTM systems to particular problems. The company also promised to create a collaborative, developer community working on HTM technology.