Inside Rensselaer
* Jeff Hawkins
Rensselaer To Host Lecture by PalmPilot Inventor Jeff Hawkins
Jeff Hawkins, best known as the co-founder of the Palm and Handspring companies and as the architect of computing products such as the PalmPilot and Treo smartphone, will be on the Rensselaer campus Wednesday, Nov. 14, to discuss a new technology platform based on a theory of the human neocortex.

Called “Hierarchical Temporal Memory: How a new theory of neocortex may lead to truly intelligent machines,” Hawkins’ lecture will take place at 11 a.m. in the auditorium of Rensselaer’s Center for Biotechnology and Interdisciplinary Studies.

In 2002, Hawkins created the Redwood Neuroscience Institute (RNI), a nonprofit science institution focused on understanding the human neocortex, the portion of the brain responsible for almost all high-level thought and perception.

There he developed an understanding of how the neocortex processes information, and came up with the Hierarchical Temporal Memory (HTM) theory, an explanation of how the hierarchical structure of the neocortex builds a model of its world and uses it for inference and prediction.

To turn this theory into a useful technology, Hawkins and his colleagues have created a company called Numenta to create a computing paradigm based on the HTM theory that replicates the structure and function of the human neocortex.

To date, coaxing computers to perform basic acts of perception and robotics, let alone high-level thought, has been difficult. No existing computer can recognize pictures, understand language, or navigate through a cluttered room with anywhere near the facility of a child.
Numenta software has the potential to allow computers to solve these and other tasks through the use of algorithms that allow the machines to learn the same way the human brain does—from observation.

“We are excited to welcome Jeff Hawkins to the Rensselaer campus,” said Provost Robert Palazzo. “In the 1990s, Jeff pioneered the development of personal digital assistants, transforming the way we organize and access information. Today, Numenta is positioned to revolutionize computing once again, potentially enabling groundbreaking new applications that could powerfully extend human intelligence. It is clear that Jeff’s commitment to innovation embodies the ‘Why Not Change the World’ attitude of Rensselaer’s students, faculty, and staff.”

Hawkins co-founded Numenta with Donna Dubinsky, who serves as chief executive officer and board chair, and Dileep George, who serves as principal architect. In addition to his work at Numenta, Hawkins continues to design products for Palm Inc. He was elected to the National Academy of Engineering in 2003, and earned a B.S. in electrical engineering from Cornell University in 1979.

To read more about Numenta, go to
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Inside Rensselaer
Volume 1, Number 7, November 8, 2007
©2007 Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
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