Michael Schmuker ·
Oct 2nd

Posted on behalf of Steve Furber, Advanced Processor Technology Group, The University of Manchester, UK.

The NICE (Neuro-Inspired Computational Elements) workshop is the annual international convention of neuromorphic types and others working in related areas. To date it has been hosted in the USA, starting in Albuquerque in New Mexico in 2013, moving to the San Francisco area for a few years, and this year it was hosted by IBM in Albany, NY. Next year it will leave the USA for the first time to be hosted by the University of Heidelberg.

This year’s event was held on March 26th-28th, with an additional day of hands-on tutorials on March 29th where participants received training in running spiking neural nets on SpiNNaker, BrainScaleS and Loihi.

The main workshop programme opened with a memorial session for Karlheinz Meier, who served on the NICE organising committee for several years. Each day then comprised a combination of talks. posters and demo sessions, ending with an “open mic” session where the day’s speakers were assembled to offer views on relevant topics and answer questions from the audience. The full programme had activities scheduled from 8am to 8pm each day. Videos and presentations are available on the NICE2019 website, and on the conference's YouTube channel.

The tutorial sessions on the Friday took attendees deeper into the three neuromorphic technologies presented there. Both SpiNNaker and BrainScales tutorials used Jupyter notebooks set up to enable jobs to be run remotely - this was the first time we had used this approach to SpiNNaker training, and it was very impressive to see PyNN jobs running on the million-core machine in Manchester as though it was next door! The Jupyter notebook approach relieved participants from any tool set-up issues, and worked very smoothly - thanks to Andrew Rowley for setting this up and leading the SpiNNaker tutorial sessions.

Overall the feeling of the workshop, most evident in the “open mic” sessions at the end of each day, was that neuromorphics is a technology whose day is coming. Industry interest is growing, though it is still unclear when and where the “killer app” will be manifest.

NICE 2020 will be on March 17-20 in Heidelberg - make a note in your diary!

SpiNNaker session @NICE2019

Image: Participants of the SpiNNaker tutorial at NICE2019.