Computer chip that mimics human brain could power everyday devices

A Canterbury physicist has created a computer chip that mimics the brain and could change the face of the industry.

The prototype uses technology that can’t be seen by the human eye, but within a decade could be powering everyday devices.

"It's the only microscope in New Zealand that can see individual atoms," says Canterbury University physics Professor Simon Brown.

Costing three quarters of a million dollars, the microscope is an important piece of equipment when working with nanotechnology.

"You can't see anything with the naked eye or even with an ordinary microscope," says Professor Brown.

Physics Professor Brown is developing a neuromorphic computer chip.

"The nano parts we are using to build this chip are a hundred thousand times smaller than a hair and we are just spray painting them, scattering them on to a surface," he says.

It works like the human brain, and Professor Brown says it's smaller, faster and uses less power than anything else on the market.

"It's not going to learn to control us and take over the world - but it's capable of thinking in the sense of recognising a pattern."

It’s likely to be around a decade before it's fully functional, and its future could be in your phone.

“It's difficult to predict at the moment if this chip will be better at reading a fingerprint or a retinal scan when you sign into your phone.”

The prototype chip is this tiny dot right in the centre and it works very much like the brain, mimicking what neurons do to process and transmit information.

If successful it could be a global game changer.

"We've put in place a number of strategies around IT protection globally because we anticipate this is unique," says Business Development manager David Humm.

NZTech CEO Graeme Muller says this technology could be massive.

"If we could patent it in New Zealand it could be a billion dollar industry for us."

The next step is to make the chip recognise patterns, pictures or sound.

A prototype should be ready next year.

A Canterbury University scientist has developed a neuromorphic computer chip. Source: 1 NEWS

SpaceX announce Japanese billionaire will be first space tourist sent around moon

SpaceX says Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa will be first private passenger on a solo rocket trip around the moon.

The 42-year-old entrepreneur appeared at an event this afternoon (NZ time) at the space launch company's headquarters of the space launch company near Los Angeles.

He says it's been his lifelong dream to go into space. He says just thinking about the journey gets his heart racing.

SpaceX founder Elon Musk says Maezawa will fly to the moon aboard a new rocket called the BFR, which is still in development.

The reusable 118-metre (387-foot) rocket will have its own dedicated passenger ship.

The average distance from Earth to the moon is about 382,500 kilometres.

No one has been there since an Apollo mission in 1972.

Yusaku Maezawa. Source: SpaceX


Government takes first step to freeze MPs' pay

The Government will take the first steps to freeze MP pay, in an attempt to share "New Zealand's prosperity more fairly", Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced today. 

A bill to freeze pay will be introduced to Parliament, which will freeze MP salaries and allowances until July 2019 "while we develop a fairer formula for future pay increases".

"MP salaries have risen at a rate that is out of proportion with wage growth of most New Zealanders," she said. 

It comes after the Remuneration Authority, that sets MPs' pay rates, had recommended a three per cent pay rise for MPs in August. 

Ms Ardern said at the time it was "just not appropriate for MPs to be the subject of such an increase".

Workplace Relations Minister Iain Lees-Galloway said over the next year "officials will look at the settings for determining future MP pay increases, with possible further changes in place before next year’s review". 

"Because of the timing of the annual salary review process set in law, the Government must initiate this process to freeze pay quickly."

The Prime Minister said Cabinet confirmed a decision to freeze MPs salaries and allowances for a year. Source: 1 NEWS

Did 'distracted' Jacinda Ardern's radio remarks cause the NZ dollar to rise?

The New Zealand dollar saw a slight rise today - from 65.78 to 65.84 US cents. But was the quiver unjustly caused by a misstatement by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern?

That was the accusation from Opposition leader Simon Bridges today as he spoke with reporters in Parliament, just hours after the PM made a statement on Newstalk ZB that she insists wasn't an error.

"I am very pleased with the way we are tracking," she told host Mike Hosking, also stating that she'd been given "a hint" ahead of the second quarter gross domestic product figures set to be released in two days.

The Opposition says it shows the Prime Minister is distracted. Source: 1 NEWS

But she was referring to the government's unaudited financial accounts, Ms Ardern later clarified. She doesn't have advanced access to GDP figures and so won't be able to comment on them until they're released on Thursday, she said.

Mr Bridges, however, referred to it as a serious "misstep".

"This matters, because these are possibly the most -- or certainly up there as the most - important figures," he said, adding that he listened to the interview live and the question seemed clearly to him to be about GDP. "They move the dollar. They move a bunch of other economic indicators. She needs to get that right.

"That she didn't I think shows that she is distracted. She's focused on the shambles of the coalition rather than what matters to New Zealanders."

The PM says her answer about the economy was correct but misunderstood while speaking on a radio show today. Source: 1 NEWS

During her own chat with reporters at Parliament this morning, Ms Ardern held firm that the misunderstanding was on the part of Mike Hosking and Newstalk ZB.

"I know what I was talking about. Unfortunately, the question that was being asked was something different," she said. "I accept I was thinking about one thing, he was talking about another.

"Of course the Prime Minister does not get the GDP figures, nor should they. I could not comment on them because I haven't seen them."

Despite the criticism. Mr Bridges has acknowledged the fluctuation in the Kiwi dollar value is unlikely to be anything more than a minor blip because the Prime Minister's interview was clarified so quickly.

The Kiwi dollar rose slightly this morning following a radio interview in which some thought the PM had a sneak peek of Thursday’s figures. Source: 1 NEWS