Apple set to develop 'Neural Engine' for AI devices
Reports say the dedicated AI processor could speed up 'image recognition' and improve battery life
Apple is developing a dedicated processor designed to handle artificial intelligence (AI) tasks, Bloomberg reports.
Dubbed the "Apple Neural Engine", the website says the processor could "improve the way the company's devices handle tasks that would otherwise require human intelligence".
The company's latest smartphone, the iPhone 7, currently runs some of its AI tasks using the image signal processor and the graphics processing unit integrated on its A10 Fusion chip, says Forbes.
"By having a more dedicated processor to more efficiently run those algorithms, Apple could speed up the image recognition as well as reduce drain on the iPhone's battery", the site adds.
While the Cupertino-based company has bundled its Siri AI assistant on its smartphones since 2011, Bloomberg says that the firm's "early advantage in voice-recognition" has since been overtaken by the likes of the Amazon Echo and Google Home.
But a dedicated AI processor could be integrated into devices such as driverless cars and "gadgets that run augmented reality (AR)", adds the site, helping the company regain its advantage in consumer AI.
A processor designed solely for AI tasks would not be the first chip dedicated to iPhone functions, says MacRumors, as all Apple smartphones since 2013's iPhone 5S "have included a motion coprocessor used to collect and store sensor data".
The motion coprocessor can continually track movement and other sensor data "without using significant battery" on iPhones and iPads, which the site says can also run functions such as the "Hey Siri" voice command system.
It's not yet known whether the "Neural Engine" will appear on Apple's rumoured iPhone 8 later this year, but AppleInsider suggests that the AI processor could be announced at the company's Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) event, which runs from 5 to 9 June.