Apple Inc. is joining the ranks of AI chipset makers with the planned introduction of a microchip it calls the Neural Engine, according to Bloomberg.
The Apple Neural Engine will be able to perform a number of AI tasks, including facial recognition and speech recognition, Bloomberg said, citing an unnamed source familiar with the microchip. However, the device may be particularly useful in performing AI functions related to self-driving cars and augmented reality.
Apple plans to include the chip in many of its products, including the iPhone and iPad. These mobile devices already perform some AI functions, such as speech recognition. Some experts also expect Apple to further enhance these platforms with other features, including facial recognition for user authentication.
Apple has already tested prototypes iPhones that include the Neural Engine, according to the Bloomberg source. However, it’s unknown when products including the chip will be available in commercial products.
Apple’s mobile products currently delegate AI processing duties to two separate chips: the applications processor and the graphics processor. By moving AI to a dedicated chip, performance could be increased, while power consumption could be reduced.
Apple is developing self-driving car technology, with the company in April obtaining permission to test a vehicle on California roads. The company has stated its applying machine learning-technology to the challenge of building fully-autonomous cars.
On the augmented-reality front, Apple is reportedly working on products including digital glasses that will superimpose digital imagery over the user’s view of the real world. AI can play a key role in augmented reality, gathering information and transforming it into useful insights that can be presented by augmented reality systems.
With the Neural Engine news, Apple will become just the latest firm to offer dedicated AI chipsets. For example, Qualcomm Inc.’s newest Snapdragon smartphone chipset has a module for AI processing. For its part, Google has announced a chip called the Tensor Processing Unit (TPU) that can perform searching and image recognition.
Apple’s move to develop a dedicated AI chip could put it back in the race for leadership in the AI field. Although Apple was an early mover with the introduction of the Siri digital assistants, other firms like Google have since surpassed the company with more advanced AI capabilities.
Apple has also made other moves that signal its seriousness about AI. The company in May spent about $200 million to purchase Lattice Data. Lattice Data uses AI technology to transform unstructured data into useful information.
Stephan Cunningham is vice president, product management at Veritone. Working in concert with core internal teams including industry-specific general managers and engineering as well as directly with clients and prospects, he leads the disciplines and business processes which govern the Veritone Platform.