It was only recently that smartphones starting carrying co-processors whose sole purpose was to processor sensor data at very low power consumption. Soon, however, smartphones might have yet another dedicated, low power chip that will be focused on helping the smartphone “see”. Google is now trying to build even more intelligent smartphones by introducing machine learning, neural networks, and computer vision into our mobile devices. And to do so, it is teaming up with a familiar partner that knows this only too well, Movidius, who also made the “vision processor” inside the Project Tango smartphone.
Google has been toying around with computer vision and machine learning for quite some time now, with the Project Tango devices, first a tablet and now a couple of smartphones, being the tangible fruits of its experimentations. Computer vision and learning would allow for smartphones to be come smarter about real world objects, without users having to teach them first, like differentiating one object from another from their depth differences, identifying such objects, and learning from what the device’s camera sees, just like how we humans do it.
What Movidius brings to the table is a chip specifically designed for vision processing. While a generic application processor like, say, a Snapdragon or an Exynos, can do such computations, they aren’t hardwired for the type of data and number crunching that a co-processor does. They also potentially consume more power and can potentially block the rest of the system while doing such hard work. Also, with a local chip, data and computations are also kept locally on the machine instead of being offloaded to the cloud, which could probably do wonders for privacy.
A working relationship between Google and Movidius isn’t actually new. Movidius’ Myriad 1 chip, specifically the MA1300, was in the first Project Tango smartphone. This time, however, a second generation Myriad 2, the MA2450, will be the center of the two’s collaboration. No word yet on what device the two have in mind, but considering this is Google, we’re most likely to see a smartphone or at least a tablet down the road.