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.

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