Chip makers have been designing chips that incorporate both a CPU and GPU for decades at this point. But we’re increasingly seeing companies add other dedicated features, and as the tech world looks toward AI as the next big thing, it’s unsurprising to see that Intel is putting a dedicated AI accelerator into its next-gen processors for mainstream PCs.
The company says its 14th-gen Intel Core chips based on “Meteor Lake” architecture will have a dedicated CPU, GPU, and VPU (Vision Processing Unit) for hardware-accelerated AI.
Now the company says it’s incorporating a VPU based on Movidius’s third-gen architecture into Meteor Lake chips set to launch later this year. The company says this will allow the chips to handle sustained AI workloads while consuming less power and freeing up CPU and graphics resources for other tasks. The new VPU block will be part of all of Intel’s 14th-gen chips, ranging from processors for low-cost laptops to high-performance chips for gaming or workstation-class desktops.
But it’s telling that Intel is calling this a VPU rather than an AI accelerator. Movidius’s expertise is in computer vision, and up until recently that was one of the most important consumer-oriented applications for artificial intelligence. We’ve seen computer vision-based AI used to enhance photographs snapped on smartphones like Google’s Pixel phones. And we’ve seen it used to add features to video conferencing software like Microsoft’s Windows Studio effects, which enable automatic framing, background noise reduction, and a kind of creepy “eye contact” feature on devices like the Surface Pro 9.
Intel says that its VPU will also enable features like improved background blurring and noise suppression in video calls… which currently require ARM-based PCs like the Surface Pro 9.
But since the release of generative AI tools like ChatGPT, Bard, Dall-E, Midjourney, and Stable Diffusion, it’s become clear that AI isn’t just about photography. And it’s unclear whether the specific AI accelerator Intel is building into its next-gen PC chips will help with those sorts of applications.