Article from Issue 222/2019

This month Graham looks at Neuronify, Undervolt GUI, Entropy Piano Tuner, Gnome Internet Radio Locator, Hatari, and more!

Neural network simulator


This may be the first time we've ever looked at a piece of software that attempts to simplify neural networks. It may even be the first time we've looked at any software dealing with neural networks. This is because neural networks are complex, and without academic imperative, they're not something you can easily understand. But that's exactly what Neuronify is trying to do – help beginners explore and begin to understand neural networks. A neural network (in the computing sense) models the behavior of neurons in the brain in an attempt to learn things from datasets that would ordinarily be difficult to discover without specific and exhaustive analysis. Thanks to big datasets being created by companies like Google and Amazon, neural networks have become a huge field of research in software engineering and could hold the key to the future of vital services, such as health care and transportation.

Neuronify makes a bold claim – it wants to make it possible for you to work on neural simulations without prior computational experience. It does this by allowing you to build "circuits" in a graphical interface that are always live and running, much like an electrical circuit. These circuits produce feedback for you to see exactly what's happening. When you launch the application, easily installed from a snap, there's a simple tutorial to guide you through the key elements. Each stage of the tutorial is itself a working circuit that's active so you can see what's happening. This starts with the nodes you'll be using in the circuit: a current source, a "leaky neuron" that fires a signal when its potential passes a threshold, and a voltmeter that displays the value of that potential.


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