Apple is working on a processor devoted specifically to AI-related tasks, according to a person familiar with the matter. 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 recognition and speech recognition, said the person, who requested anonymity discussing a product that hasn’t been made public. Apple declined to comment.
Apple engineers are purportedly racing to catch up with Amazon and Alphabet. Siri gave Apple an early lead in voice recognition but since then its competitors have been more aggressive in deploying AI across product lines with Amazon's Echo and Google Home being notable hits.
Currently, artificial intelligence is handled with two different chips: the main processor and the graphics chip. The new chip would let Apple offload those tasks to a dedicated module, likely improving battery performance.
Apple is apparently planning to integrate the AI chip into many of its devices including the iPhone and iPad. Sources say the company has already tested future iPhone prototypes with the chip but it's unclear if it will be ready this year.
There are already features of Apple's operating system that could be offloaded to the chip including facial recognition in photos, speech recognition, and its predictive keyboard. Developers will reportedly be offered access to the chip so that third party applications can also offload AI tasks.
It's possible that Apple could discuss its AI advancements at WWDC in June when it introduces iOS 11. Please follow iClarified on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, or RSS for updates.