Apple Reportedly Developing Powerful Neural Engine Chip For Future iPhone AI

Rumor has it that Apple is developing a brand new processor dedicated to artificial intelligence tasks, including facial and speech recognition. Apple may have gotten an early start in AI with Siri, however, this chip would allow the company to catch up to competitors like Google and Amazon, which are blazing new trails with the Google Assistant and Alexa, respectively.

The chip has reportedly been dubbed the “Apple Neural Engine”, and would take over AI duties currently handled by the iPhone's processor and graphics chip. The Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 incorporates such a module.
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Apple Headquarters, Image from: Wikimedia Commons, Joe Ravi

Apple hopes that the chip will be able to handle facial recognition, speech recognition, and and the iPhone’s predictive keyboard. The company has reportedly already tested future iPhone prototypes with the chip, and intends to offer access to the chip to third parties so that they can also develop new AI capabilities (perhaps for self-driving cars).

One of the biggest draws of the Apple Neural Engine is that it supposedly improves battery life by offloading tasks from the main A-Series processor. Apple would also potentially be able to add more advanced features to Siri and other devices with AI. Google has already used its TPU in data centers to power and improve search results and image recognition.

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According to former Apple analyst Gene Munster, “Two of the areas that Apple is betting its future on require AI. At the core of augmented reality and self-driving cars is artificial intelligence.” Over the last few years, Apple has acquired a number of companies known for their developments in AI and hired Russ Salakhutdinov from Carnegie Mellon University as its director of AI research. The company most recently released its first AI research paper, which focused on machine vision technologies.