ArchiTECHt Daily: Intel's new AI group and the hardware renaissance

Intel announced a new AI product group and research lab on Thursday, doubling down on its investments
ARCHITECHT
ArchiTECHt Daily: Intel's new AI group and the hardware renaissance
By ARCHITECHT • Issue #45 • View online
Intel announced a new AI product group and research lab on Thursday, doubling down on its investments in AI over the past year or so:
The new product group will be ran by Nervana co-founder Naveen Rao, who himself will report directly to CEO Brian Krzanich.
One way to look at this news is to focus on the hiring aspect—that Intel’s deep pockets will result in yet another big company sucking up all available talent. Hiring is certainly on the top of mind right now, especially with Tuesday’s news that AI expert Andrew Ng is resigning from his leadership role at Baidu. Many people missed another important move in China on Thursday, with Zhang Tong, former head of Baidu’s big data lab, heading to rival Tencent to lead it 250-person AI lab. 
To paraphrase Heidi Klum’s Project Runway catchphrase: “In AI, one day you have all the talent, the next day you don’t.”
However, I tend to look at all of Intel’s investments as evidence that, with the algorithmic flywheel now running at top speed, it’s time to focus on hardware. GPUs might be a fine choice for training models and running workloads inside data centers (although there’s evidence that FPGAs will actually deliver better performance), but they aren’t such a sensical option when you’re talking about a wearable device or an IP camera
Apart from the companies Intel has acquired, there is lots of academic research happening into mobile-scale AI chips and, of course, IBM’s much-hyped TrueNorth technology. Just yesterday, in fact, a startup called Mythic raised $9 million for its button-sized AI processors that it claims can deliver processing power equivalent to 10 mobile GPUs while using remarkably little power (it’s not clear from what I’ve read whether Mythic’s platform actually includes GPUs or not).
As I’ve said before: Intel missed mobile, is seeing declining server sales, and lost out on the early AI workloads to Nvidia. As AI becomes embedded into the consumer experience, in what some are calling the next big era of computing, Intel is determined to dominate once again.

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