Intel and Facebook to Jointly Develop AI Chip

LAS VEGAS, NV — Intel and Facebook announced at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Nevada this week that they have joined forces to design a new chip for Artificial Intelligence. In tech speak, the Nervana Neural Network Processor chip will be designed to help with “inference” – the process of putting an AI algorithm to work, where Intel has always held a competitive edge. Practically, the chip will help with Facebook processes such as automatically tagging Facebook friends in uploaded photos.

New SquareThough Intel’s processors do hold a leading edge in the market for machine learning inference, the chip will of course face stiff competition from competitors such as Nvidia Corp and Amazon Web Services, who recently announced their own AI chip ventures (though AWS will not sell their chip as a stand-alone product – they will instead sell to their Cloud customers who will already operate alongside the chips). Morningstar has predicted that the global machine learning chip market will reach a value of $11.8 Billion USD by 2021.

“This is a really big deal for us,” said Navin Shenoy, the Executive Vice President of Intel’s Data Center Group during the new conference. “It expands our position in AI above and beyond what we’ve done in Xeon and in Core into a new domain….One area where we really haven’t had a breakthrough yet is inference, and this tends to be a more difficult problem.”

Intel also made some other announcements at CES. For example, Dell Technologies Inc will include Intel’s next generation of “10-nanometer” processors in new of laptops — the XPS. Industry observers likely recall that the roll-out of these chips has been marred by significant delays. They unveiled a new 5G wireless access base station too, and furthermore announced plans to develop a chip that will tackle the training phase of Artificial Intelligence (as opposed to inference). The Neural Network Processor for Training, code-named “Spring Crest,” should be released by 2020 at the latest.