Report: Apple working on dedicated ‘Apple Neural Engine’ AI processor

Ahead of next-generation iPhones expected to include augmented reality features and updates for Siri, Bloomberg is out with a new report today detailing Apple’s work on a dedicated processor that it says will be devoted entirely to artificial intelligence tech.

Dubbed “Apple Neural Engine” internally, the report says the chip will allow for much improved facial and speech recognition applications as well as improved battery life:

The new chip would let Apple offload those tasks onto a dedicated module designed specifically for demanding artificial intelligence processing, allowing Apple to improve battery performance…. The Apple AI chip is designed to make significant improvements to Apple’s hardware over time, and the company plans to eventually integrate the chip into many of its devices, including the iPhone and iPad, according to the person with knowledge of the matter.

Several reports in recent months have detailed Apple’s plans to include augmented reality tech in next generation iPhones that are said to tap into a 3D-sensing front camera for depth detection. The technology can reportedly allow merging of depth information together with 2D images from the front camera for applications including face recognition, iris recognition, and 3D selfies. Today’s report adds that Apple has already tested prototypes of iPhones using the dedicated AI chip, but it’s unclear if it will be ready to debut in an iPhone 8 with AR features expected this fall.

In addition, Bloomberg says Apple has plans to allow developer access to the chip and has tested various applications for its own software such as “offloading facial recognition in the photos application, some parts of speech recognition, and the iPhone’s predictive keyboard to the chip.”

The news comes ahead of an unveiling of Apple’s much rumored Siri Speaker product expected as soon as next month at its Worldwide Developer Conference kicking off June 5.


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