Intel Debuts Loihi Self-Learning AI Chip That Mimics Human Brain Mechanics

Hot on the heels of the debut of its 8th gen Core series, and also its brand-new top-end Core X chips, Intel just announced Loihi. With this new chip, Intel is going all-in on artificial intelligence (AI) and self-learning. It also drops a term you may have heard recently: neuromorphic computing; in effect, neural systems simulation.


In his blog post, Intel's Corporate VP and Managing Director of Intel Labs Dr. Michael Mayberry lays down a couple of great examples of how AI could benefit our lives in the future. Picture, for example, stoplight-mounted cameras being tied to an AI backend that adjusted the timing of the light changes based on the flow of traffic.

Then there are streetlight-mounted cameras, which could be used for a variety of purposes. Here's an important one: a loved one goes missing, and a streetlight camera is so smart, it detects if that loved one enters the scene, thus making tracking them down a lot easier. Intel might not say it here, but such cameras could also be used to automatically detect criminal activity, or even track down persons on the run. 

As the earlier image shows, Loihi looks like a standard chip on the outside (or at least, it does in its current "test iteration"), but under the hood, there's a secondary chip in addition to the primary CPU, which is used to accelerate AI workloads. NVIDIA's Tesla V100 has a similar design, with its additional Tensor processor.

Intel says that its Loihi chip comprises 130,000 neurons and 130 million synapses, and that it's built on the company's 14nm process, which is probably no surprise. In the first half of 2018, Intel plans to seed the chip to leading university and research institutions that focus on AI. So while the chip is effectively unveiled today, it's going to be some time before we see the fruits of Intel's labor.