Apple is developing a chip made solely for artificial intelligence (AI), according to Bloomberg, quoting an unnamed “person familiar with the matter.”
The chip, dubbed internally as the Apple Neural Engine, could help Apple better integrate its AI across numerous products akin to advances by Amazon and Google. For instance, it would allow AI tasks to head to a dedicated processing spot instead of splitting work between the main processor and graphics chip. The company’s devices already sport AI technology of a sort -- such as the Siri pesronal assistant — but a dedicated chip would improve user experience.
A dedicated AI chip would also save battery life and integrate more advanced capabilities into devices, particularly cars that drive themselves and gadgets that run AR, according to Bloomberg.
The Apple AI chip is designed to make significant improvements to Apple’s hardware over time, and the company plans to eventually integrate the chip into many of its devices, including the iPhone and iPad, the article adds (and Mac support seems very likely, according to the Sellers Research Firm).
Apple’s operating systems and software features would purportedly integrate with devices that include the chip. For instance, the company has considered offloading facial recognition in its Photos app, some parts of speech recognition, and the iPhone’s predictive keyboard to the chip, per Bloomberg. Apple also plans to offer developer access to the chip so third-party apps can also offload AI-related tasks, the article adds.
If the Apple Neural Engine does see the light of day, it will hardly be the first steps into serious AI work Apple has made. Last August it was reported that Apple had bought Turi, a "machine learning platform for developers and data scientists.”
In 2015 the company acquired Perceptio, a startup developing technology to let companies run advanced artificial intelligence (AI) systems on smartphones without needing to share as much user data. In the same year Apple acquired VocalIQ, a UK startup that developed a natural language application programming interface [API] that allows humans and machines to have a much more natural conversation. And in January 2016, our favorite tech company scooped up Emollient, a a startup that uses artificial-intelligence technology to read people’s emotions by analyzing facial expressions.
Apple CEO Tim Cook has said that the company's upcoming research and development base in Yokohama, Japan, will develop AI and other technologies. He described it as a center for "deep engineering.”