Quest for AI Leadership Pushes Microsoft Further Into Chip Development

From a Bloomberg report: Tech companies are keen to bring cool artificial intelligence features to phones and augmented reality goggles — the ability to show mechanics how to fix an engine, say, or tell tourists what they are seeing and hearing in their own language. But there’s one big challenge: how to manage the vast quantities of data that make such feats possible without making the devices too slow or draining the battery in minutes and wrecking the user experience. Microsoft says it has the answer with a chip design for its HoloLens goggles — an extra AI processor that analyzes what the user sees and hears right there on the device rather than wasting precious microseconds sending the data back to the cloud. The new processor, a version of the company’s existing Holographic Processing Unit, is being unveiled at an event in Honolulu, Hawaii, today. The chip is under development and will be included in the next version of HoloLens; the company didn’t provide a date. This is one of the few times Microsoft is playing all roles (except manufacturing) in developing a new processor. The company says this is the first chip of its kind designed for a mobile device. Bringing chipmaking in-house is increasingly in vogue as companies conclude that off-the-shelf processors aren’t capable of fully unleashing the potential of AI. Apple is testing iPhone prototypes that include a chip designed to process AI, a person familiar with the work said in May. Google is on the second version of its own AI chips. To persuade people to buy the next generation of gadgets — phones, VR headsets, even cars — the experience will have to be lightning fast and seamless.


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