Chip giant Intel announced that it was working with Facebook, along with others, to introduce a chip designed for artificial intelligence.
The social media giant is “starting to take a look at (the chip’s) early phase and say, ‘Hey, this really could change the way we think about artificial intelligence. And help us really steer how we build software and hardware,” Intel CEO Brian Krzanich said at The Wall Street Journal’s WSJ D.Live conference. “This is the first piece of silicon. We have a whole family of silicon planned.”
The move is said to be a direct counter against semiconductor giant Nvidia, which has been developing chips for AI.
“We are thrilled to have Facebook in close collaboration sharing their technical insights as we bring this new generation of AI hardware to market,” Krzanich wrote in a blog post.
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Intel is making the first-generation version of the chip available to only a limited set of partners — like Facebook — to get feedback for the second version due out sometime next year. Facebook is an important player in AI in both research — run by deep learning pioneer Yann LeCun — as well as applying the latest AI techniques widely across its social network.
Intel is calling the upcoming chip a neural network processor (or NNP), formerly codenamed Lake Crest. As the chip’s name suggests, the processor is optimized for running neural networks, another name for deep learning.
“It’s the first chip product in the world specific to neural networks,” said Naveen Rao, a corporate vice president of the AI unit at Intel, in an interview.
Intel plans to release performance benchmarks for its AI chip later this year.