A recent Bloomberg report suggests that Apple is working on a special dedicated chip for artificial intelligence for its iPhones. The chip is reportedly called the Apple Neural Engine, and will power all the AI needs of future Apple iPhones.
Some of the increasingly common features of smartphones today, such as computer vision, which is used for complex processes like augmented reality, facial recognition, image identification, etc., are extremely resource-intensive. The report shows that Apple may be trying to offload some of these intensive tasks to the Apple Neural Engine, which will actually improve the overall performance of devices into which the new AI chips are integrated.
While there’s no confirmation that this year’s iPhone will get the Neural Engine chip, according to the Bloomberg report, Apple has already developed the chip and is testing it in prototypes of future iPhones.
This is yet another attempt by Apple to segregate specialized tasks at the chip level. Two good examples are the chips for motion sensing and AirPod syncing that are on the new models of iPhone.
Apple has made it clear that AI and augmented reality are a big part of the company’s future products, although we’ve seen little physical evidence of that, other than their “newly exposed” self-driving car technology and the fact that we know that there are large teams working on augmented reality.
We’re all waiting expectantly for Apple to release its latest tech in the AI and AR spaces, and this piece of news about the Apple Neural Engine comes as a fresh wave of hope for Apple.
That said, it still remains to be seen whether or not initiatives such as this can boost devices sales for the Cupertino tech giant. The most valuable company in the world, by market capitalization, has been struggling with device sales over the past year or more. And, despite a great holiday quarter for iPhone 7, that quickly dropped off during the January to March quarter, with iPhone sales dropping by 1 percent.
This year’s iPhone is critical to Apple’s success in the devices segment, since iPhones still bring in more than 60 percent of their overall revenues.
We don’t know whether they can or will, but if Apple manages to bring the Neural Engine chip to this year’s iPhone, their facial recognition, image recognition and augmented reality efforts could get off to a fantastic start. If the chip is already developed and being tested, then it’s not a stretch to think that Apple might try and squeeze it in before the final design is “locked” and the device sent to production.
Let’s wait and see.