Apple's upgraded A.I. chip design should lead to faster Face ID and better photos

Key Points
  • Apple's new neural engine component should lead to better photos.
  • The announcement was part of a host of product features and upgrades on Wednesday.
Apple's Phil Schiller talks about the neural engine and other features of the A12 bionic chip in new iPhones on Sept. 12, 2018.

Apple's new devices will be powered by upgraded silicon for artificial intelligence that should, among other things, help you take higher-quality photos and videos.

The company said on Wednesday at its product showcase that the enhanced chips will be embedded in the iPhone XS, iPhone XS Max and iPhone XR. Apple is showing its ongoing commitment to specialized semiconductor design across its products, particularly in flagship smartphone.

Apple's neural engine for AI in the new A12 bionic chip is designed to deliver improved performance over last year's A11, which featured the debut of the neural engine in the iPhone X. Some of the software's key functions are helping quickly authenticate users with Face ID and tracking facial movements for Animojis, or animated selfie emojis.

The new engine has eight cores and can run 5 trillion operations per second, up from two cores and 600 billion operations in the previous version, Phil Schiller, Apple's senior vice president of worldwide marketing, said at the event in Cupertino, California.

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The larger iPhone XS Max battery is expected to last 90 minutes longer than last year's iPhone X, and the A12 chip's "smart compute system" contributes to that improvement by figuring out which computing tasks should run on the main part of the chip, which should run on the graphics processing unit and which should be deployed on the neural engine.

Schiller said the new neural engine will be more effective at recognizing people's hair and glasses and processing images accordingly. It will also speed up Face ID, Schiller said. Third-party app developers will be able to access it through Apple's Core ML software.

Custom chip design isn't new at Apple. The company has done it for more than a decade, Johny Srouji, senior vice president of hardware technologies, said in an interview with Mashable last year.

Huawei has also developed AI chips for smartphones, while Samsung has been reportedly working on an AI chip of its own. Google included a special Intel-made chip for image processing in the Pixel smartphones last year.

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