Apple Developing Chip Specifically For AI-Related Tasks

A source confirmed with Bloomberg Technology that Apple is working on a processor devoted specifically to AI-related tasks.

The chip, known internally as the Apple Neural Engine, would improve the way the company’s devices handle tasks that would otherwise require human intelligence, such as facial and speech recognition.

While Siri gave Apple an early start in voice recognition, competitors have been more aggressive in using AI across their product lines, including Amazon’s Echo and Google Home’s digital assistants.

Engineers at Apple are now racing to catch up, and an AI-enabled processor would help the company integrate more advanced capabilities into devices, particularly self-driving cars and gadgets that run augmented reality.

“Two of the areas that Apple is betting its future on require AI,” said Gene Munster, former Apple analyst and cofounder of venture capital firm Loup Ventures. “At the core of augmented reality and self-driving cars is artificial intelligence.”

Currently, Apple devices handle complex AI processes with two different chips: the main processor and the graphics chip. The new chip would let Apple offload those tasks onto a dedicated module designed for demanding artificial intelligence processing, allowing Apple to improve battery performance.

The company plans to eventually integrate the chip into many of its devices, including the iPhone and iPad. And Apple’s operating systems and software features would integrate with devices that include the chip. Apple also plans to offer developer access to the chip so third-party apps can offload artificial intelligence-related tasks.