Huawei's newest smartphone processor - the Kirin 970 - is set to pack some serious smarts; specifically, a neural processing unit (NPU) dedicated to mobile artificial intelligence.
Artificial intelligence based tasks on smartphones are often offloaded from your phone to dedicated cloud-based servers due to how resource intensive. For example, much of the computation behind Siri and Google Assistant doesn't happen on your phone.
The Kirin 970's NPU is designed to work alongside cloud-based AI computing, and allow Huawei's upcoming devices to perform some of this complex work on the phone itself. On-device processing for this sort of functionality can greatly reduce latency (since you're not waiting to get an answer from another computer) and means it can work without an internet connection.
"Huawei is committed to developing smart devices into intelligent devices by building end-to-end capabilities that support coordinated development of chips, devices, and the cloud," said Huawei CEO Richard Yu. "The ultimate goal is to provide a significantly better user experience. The Kirin 970 is the first in a series of new advances that will bring powerful AI features to our devices and take them beyond the competition."
Rather than use the NPU to power the company's own Siri-like smart assistant, Huawei is instead focusing efforts on other part of the smartphone experience. Intelligent scene recognition could, for example, facilitate better photography by knowing exactly what you're taking a photo of. Huawei also believes the NPU will be a boon to augmented reality applications that rely on analysing your surroundings. In a benchmark image recognition test, the Kirin 970 processed 2,000 images per minute, which Huawei claims is faster than any other chip currently on the market.
The Mate 10 - set to be unveiled on October 16 in Munich - will be Huawei's first smartphone to be powered by the Kirin 970 processor. Other rumours suggest that the Mate 10 will use an "all screen" bezel-less design similar to that found in the LG V30 and Galaxy Note 8 with an extra-tall aspect ratio.