Report: Apple Developing a Chip Dedicated to AI

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Apple is planning to introduce a new chip to handle the increasingly demanding processor requirements of its artificial intelligence projects, according to a Bloomberg report on Friday.

The new chip is known internally as the Apple Neural Engine, and it could handle tasks like facial and speech recognition if it's included in future Apple devices, Bloomberg reported, citing a person familiar with the matter.

Apple already has considerably powerful processors at its disposal: the latest quad-core A10 chip in the iPhone 7 not only offers twice the speed of the iPhone 6, but also rivals the latest chip offerings from Qualcomm and Samsung. But as AI becomes more ubiquitous on mobile devices, Apple can only boost processing power so far before it begins to have an adverse effect on battery life.

The solution is a dedicated AI chip, which would handle many tasks that are currently performed by the main A10 processor. Breaking up the tasks would reduce the A10's demands on the battery, and offer room for Siri, Apple's AI-powered voice assistant, to become even more intelligent.


  • Apple Flexes its Artificial Intelligence MuscleApple Flexes its Artificial Intelligence Muscle

As Bloomberg notes, Qualcomm and Google both already have their own dedicated AI chips. Qualcomm's version is included in its latest Snapdragon 835 processor, which is found in high-end handsets like the Samsung Galaxy S8. It dynamically allocates processing power for AI tasks, so that one might be assigned to the GPU while another might run on the dynamic signal processor (DSP).

Apple has had an on-again, off-again relationship with Qualcomm; some iPhone models have been powered by Snapdragon processors, while others use Apple's own A-series chips. The relationship is currently off-again, thanks to Apple's lawsuit accusing Qualcomm of unfair business practices, which may factor into Cupertino's decision to develop its AI chip in-house.

Whatever AI initiatives Apple has up its sleeve, it's a pretty sure bet that we'll hear about them at next month's WWDC. The company didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.

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