Apple is developing a processor dedicated to AI-related tasks, according to a new report from Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman. Gurman’s source says that the chip is known internally as the ‘Apple Neural Engine,’ and that it will be used to improve the way that Apple’s myriad devices respond to requests that typically require human intelligence, including facial recognition and speech recognition.
The report claims that Apple is in a rush to catch up with its competition at Amazon and Google when it comes to artificial intelligence. Although Siri was the first virtual assistant to reach the mainstream, it has since been surpassed by the like of Alexa and Google Assistant, both of which have become even more ubiquitous with the release of smart speakers like Amazon Echo and Google Home.
An AI-enabled processor would help Cupertino, California-based Apple integrate more advanced capabilities into devices, particularly cars that drive themselves and gadgets that run augmented reality, the technology that superimposes graphics and other information onto a person’s view of the world.
As it stands, Apple uses the main processor and the graphics chip to run virtually everything on its iOS devices, including AI processes. The Neural Engine would allow Apple to offload those processes onto a discreet module, freeing up the other chips and possibly improving battery life in the process.
One source says that Apple will eventually implement the chip into its most popular devices, including the iPhone and iPad. The company has even begun testing new iPhone models with the Neural Engine, but it’s unclear if it will be ready in time for the launch of the iPhone 7s and iPhone 8 this fall.
Depending on how far along the project is by next month, there’s a chance Apple will take some time at its annual WWDC conference to discuss it advancements in the AI field. The AI chip would join iOS 11 and and new MacBooks as the featured topics of discussion for the event, which starts on June 5th.