Qualcomm reveal neural network chips that will be available to developers in 2014 for future robots and smarter smartphones

Biologically inspired neural processing units (NPUs) were recently described by Qualcomm at the MIT Technology Review’s EmTech conference. Qualcomm chief technology officer (CTO) Matt Grob described a new generation of NPUs and design tools that they hope to make available to developers next year. Grob showed videos of their Zeroth Robot prototype which used the NPUs.

These early prototypes are general-purpose image processors that learn their application, rather than depend on complicated hand-written algorithms, they are already offering comparable performance to the best custom-designed image processing algorithms for conventional computers today. Qualcomm has also partnered with Purdue University professor Eugenio Culurciello, which is using its suite of neural network development tools, to perform realtime image recognition of objects from moving cars.

Qualcomm envisions using these chips in its core business, mobile handsets. He described applications for cellphones that offer more natural interfaces, where the user trains the phone rather than being forced to learn complicated menu commands. Qualcomm also aims to incorporate sophisticated, neural-based search capabilities through Big Data that are very efficient compared to the power-hungry remote servers used today.

Purdue Univerisity researchers use Qualcomm’s prototype neural network chips and suite of design tools to create an image processing application that can categorize objects from a moving car in realtime. SOURCE: Eugenio Culurciello, Purdue University/Qualcomm at MIT’s EmTech

ualcomm, in cooperation with its Brain Corp., has developed a spiking model of the visual system. Since 2009 Brain Corp. has been perfecting its models of the spiking behavior of neurons, creating models of their transfer functions that replicate its biological behaviors in computationally efficient ways. Their strategy was to create a suite of neural network application development tools that model the behavior of neural networks, that the company will soon be providing to application developers.

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