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Digitimes Research: Apple outraces Google for on-device AI development
Ashley Huang and Luke Lin, DIGITIMES Research, Taipei [Tuesday 26 September 2017]

Google has been regarded as the leading force for the development of artificial intelligence (AI) technology thanks to its AlphaGo AI computer program. While Google still holds the advantage in the cloud-AI sector, Apple appears to have outraced Google in the development of on-device AI products with the launch of its iPhone X and iPhone 8 devices.

The built-in dual-core neural engine chip incorporated within the A11 processors, which power the iPhone X and iPhone 8 devices, integrates functionality such as machine learning, inference model and related algorithm to perform as an application-specific integrated circuit (ASIC) chip for image recognition and achieve hardware acceleration.

The face ID application allows iPhone X users to actually experience on-device AI applications. Through the use of the TrueDepth camera, users can build up a depth map of face and the neural engine can identify and confirm the face and unlock the iPhone.

With regard to AR development, although Google has rolled out its Tango AR platform and also cooperated with hardware vendors such as Lenovo and Asustek Computer to launch AR-enabled smartphones, these AR-enabled smartphones have failed to wage an AR campaign because their prices are too high due to the adoption of high-priced components such as depth measuring sensors, and the number of users of Tango-based AR phones is scarce due to limited cooperation smartphone partners, as well as immature integration between related AR software and hardware.

In comparison, Apple's ARKit supports current and previous iOS-based devices launched up to two years ago through upgrades. Without using hardware components to build a 3D mode, the ARKit can utilize software algorithm to stack up AR scenes and objects to enable users to ride on AR experiences.

To compete effectively with ARKit, Google launched ARCore at the end of August, using a technology similar to that of ARKit. However, since hardware devices supporting ARCore are still limited to only Android 7.0 and above smartphones such as Google's Pixel and Pixel XL, and Samsung Electronics' Galaxy S8, the number of ARCore-based devices will lag far behind those of ARKit-based products, Digitimes Research believes.

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