Huawei’s new AI Kirin chip could help its Mate 10 mimic the human brain

Chinese tech giant Huawei is placing artificial intelligence front and centre in its future plans, with news that the company’s upcoming Huawei Mate 10 will be the first-ever smartphone to feature an in-built Neural Processing Unit (NPU).

Huawei’s new AI Kirin chip could help its Mate 10 mimic the human brain

Announced at IFA 2017, Huawei’s next handset will include the company’s Kirin 970 chipset, boasting baked-in AI that will lead to “truly personalised” experiences for users, the company claims.

Built into the same 10nm chip that’ll power standard processing tasks like graphics and images, the AI aspects encompass an extra layer of sensing and predictive capabilities. This could, for example, lead to stronger facial recognition, or scenario-specific changes to UI, without having to solely rely on the cloud to glean patterns from your data.

“As we look to the future of smartphones, we’re at the threshold of an exciting new era,” said Richard Yu, CEO of Huawei Consumer Business Group.

Coming days before Apple’s launch of the iPhone 8, Huawei’s announcement is a clear attempt to position the company at the technical fore of its rivals. That subtext is hardly a subtext at all, with Huawei claiming the addition of in-built AI will give its future devices a leg up over competitors.

“Compared with Samsung and Apple, we have advantages,” Yu told Reuters during the annual IFA consumer electronics fair in Berlin. “Users are in for much faster (feature) performance, longer battery life and more compact design.”

It’s worth noting that for all Huawei’s talk about AI, the actual improvements to a smartphone are currently theoretical, and will live or die by how immediately obvious the changes are to consumers.

Neural processing units aside, the new chip will also have an octa-core processor comprising twin quad-core parts running at 2.4GHz and 1.8GHz, a 12-core graphics chip, dual ISPs aimed at improved camera quality and performance, plus up to 50% longer battery life in its phones. If anything, it’s the latter figure that’s more likely to grab consumers, and it will be interesting to see how the race pans out once the dust of Apple’s launch has settled. We’ll be able to find out after mid-October, when the Huawei Mate 10 is set for be unveiled.

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