Apple Develops AI Chip to Compete in Autonomous Cars, AR

Apple is reportedly working on Apple Neural Engine, the internal name for a new AI-enhanced processor that will enable facial and speech recognition ordinarily accomplished by human intelligence. The company, which would not comment, had an early AI win with Siri, but has since been playing catch up with Amazon and Google, both of which offer AI-powered digital assistants. Apple Neural Engine would give Apple more capabilities in autonomous vehicles and augmented reality devices, both fields Apple is involved in.

Bloomberg quotes former Apple analyst/co-founder of venture capital firm Loup Ventures Gene Munster that, “two of the areas that Apple is betting its future on require AI.” With the new chip, Apple could “offload those tasks onto a dedicated module … allowing Apple to improve battery performance.” The chip will eventually be integrated into the iPhone and iPad, says a source, who adds that Apple has already tested iPhone prototypes with it installed.

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That source also reveals that, “Apple has considered offloading facial recognition in the photos application, some parts of speech recognition, and the iPhone’s predictive keyboard to the chip.” Apple will also provide developers with access to the new chip.

Other chipmakers that have brought out AI chips include Qualcomm with Snapdragon and Google with its Tensor Processing Unit (TPU); Google has used its TPU in its data centers “to power search results and image-recognition.”

The Verge reports that ARM has introduced the ARM Cortex-A75, “the new flagship-tier mobile processor design” and the Cortex-A55. The company says the Cortex-A75 has a 22 percent performance boost over the A73, and the Cortex-A55 has “the highest power efficiency of any mid-range CPU ARM’s ever designed.” In addition, the Mali-G72 graphics processor offers “a 25 percent improvement in efficiency relative to its predecessor G71.”

With these improvements, the new line-up is aimed at tackling onboard AI and machine learning. ARM, an English company now owned by Japan’s SoftBank, “is responsible for designing the processor architecture of practically every mobile device,” so developing AI capabilities into ARM’s design is crucial to “the oncoming wave of mobile AI, mobile VR, and smartphones that can perform machine-learning tasks without sending them off to processor farms up in the cloud.”

The Cortex-A75 and A-55 are the company’s “first Dynamiq CPUs, from ARM,” which refers to “a much more flexible set of design options for silicon vendors like Qualcomm.”

With the new design, “chip makers can now have … seven little A55 cores and just one big A75 one: for a favorable mix of long battery life, cost efficiency, and a high ceiling of single-threaded performance.” ARM marketing head John Ronco said the company expects a “50x improvement in AI performance over the next three to five years.”