Rensselaer Magazine
Feature Articles At Rensselaer President's View Reader Mail Staying Connected Alumni News One Last Thing
* *
At Rensselaer

Cognitive Science

Visual System Could Make Powerful Computer

Your visual system can carry out this computation by “perceptually walking through the circuit” from the inputs downward to the output.

Visual System Could Make Powerful Computer

Since the idea of using DNA to create faster, smaller, and more powerful computers originated in 1994, scientists have been scrambling to develop successful ways to use genetic code for computation. Now, new research from Assistant Professor of Cognitive Science Mark Changizi suggests that if we want to carry out artificial computations, all we have to do is look around.

Harnessing the computing power of our visual system, according to Changizi, requires visually representing a computer program in such a way that the visual system naturally carries out the computation and generates a perception.

Ideally, we would be able to glance at a complex visual stimulus, and our visual system would automatically generate a perception, which would inform us of the output of the computation, Changizi says.

Changizi has begun successfully applying his approach by developing visual representations of digital circuits. A large and important class of computations, digital circuits are constructed from assemblies of logic gates, and always have an output value of zero or one.

Changizi used simple drawings of unambiguous boxes as inputs for his visually represented digital circuits. The positioning and shading of each box indicates which direction the image is tilted. He also created visual representations of the logic gates NOT, which flips a circuit’s state from 0 to 1 or vice versa; OR, which outputs 1 if one or both inputs are 1; and AND, which outputs 1 only if both inputs are 1.

By perceptually walking through Changizi’s visual representation of a digital circuit, our visual system will naturally carry out the computation so that the “output” of the circuit is the way we perceive the final box to tilt, and thus a one or zero.

“Not only may our visual system one day give DNA computation a run for its money, but visual circuits have many potential advantages for teaching logic,” Changizi says.

*   “At Rensselaer” Contents   *
Feature Articles At Rensselaer President’s View Reader Mail Staying Connected Alumni News One Last Thing Back Issues
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute | About RPI | Academics | Research | Student Life | Admissions | News & Events
Rensselaer (ISSN 0898-1442) is published in Spring, Summer, Fall, and Winter by the Office of Strategic Communications and External Relations, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Troy, NY 12180-3590. Opinions expressed in these pages do not necessarily reflect the views of the editors or the policies of the Institute. ©2008 Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.