Apple is reportedly working on a dedicated artificial intelligence chip that would power AI-related tasks on mobile devices, according to a report from Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman. The chip, which may be called the Apple Neural Engine, would be used to offload tasks that require sophisticated algorithms related to facial and speech recognition and augmented reality tasks that rely heavily on computer vision. This chip could improve the device’s overall battery life, the report says, and potentially improve overall performance of Apple devices.
It’s unclear if the chip would make its way into devices this year, Bloomberg reports, but Apple has already started testing future iPhone prototypes with the chip. The ultimate goal would be to separate the most computationally intensive tasks from the iPhone’s processor and graphics chip — much in the same way Apple uses distinct chips to power motion sensing across its device line and the chip that helps its AirPods more easily sync wirelessly with the iPhone.
The iPhone maker is typically tight-lipped on any and all developments regarding future products. But CEO Tim Cook has, over the last few years, dropped hints in interviews that augmented reality and AI are the two core pillars of Apple’s future. Both provide avenues into promising new technologies like self-driving cars, more sophisticated digital assistants, and the kind of image recognition that could imbue a smartphone with the ability to understand and contextualize the world.
Though we haven’t seen Apple make any public AI announcements outside its occasional Siri update, the company has been on a hiring spree to scoop up top industry talent. Other news of its other commitments to the field have also begun trickling out. In January, Apple joined the Partnership on AI, a research group made up of other Silicon Valley giants concerned with examining the ethical ripple effects of automation, robotics, and digital intelligence. Apple also started allowing its AI researchers to publish papers last year, as a way to retain the field’s best academics. In February, Apple announced that it would be expanding its Seattle office, where much of its AI and machine learning work is done.