May 30, 2017 -
Apple Inc. is developing a processor that will improve the way the company’s devices handle artificial intelligence (AI)-related tasks, such as facial recognition and speech recognition, according to a report by Bloomberg that cited an individual familiar with the matter.
Apple Neural Engine is designed to make significant improvements to Apple’s hardware over time, and will eventually be integrated into the iPhone, iPad and other devices, according to the source.
The company has already tested the chip with prototypes of future iPhones, however, it remains to be seen if the processor will be ready this year.
In 2011, Apple first entered the AI space with the release of its voice assistant feature, Siri.
Since then, many of its competitors including Amazon.com Inc., Google and Alphabet Inc. have released their own AI-related products and services.
Apple’s AI-enabled chip would help the company integrate more advanced capabilities into devices, including self-driving cars and gadgets that operate augmented reality.
“Two of the areas that Apple is betting its future on require AI,” said Gene Munster, former Apple analyst and co-founder of venture capital firm Loup Ventures. “At the core of augmented reality and self-driving cars is artificial intelligence.”
Apple devices currently handle complex AI processes — such as facial recognition in its photos applications and speech recognition capabilities — with the main processor and the graphics processor.
However, the new AI chip would allow the company to offload those tasks onto a dedicated module designed for power-intensive AI processing, which would improve battery performance.
Apple may reveal details about its latest AI advancements at the 2017 Apple Worldwide Developers Conference, to be held June 5 to 9.
Earlier this year Apple joined the Partnership on AI, a nonprofit artificial intelligence research organization with a membership that includes Amazon.com Inc., DeepMind, Alphabet Inc.’s Google, IBM, Facebook Inc., and Microsoft Corp.