Intel’s Latest Acquisition Is All About Giving Sight to Machines

September 6, 2016, 8:27 AM UTC
Photograph by Sean Gallup Getty Images

Intel (INTC) is to buy the Irish chip firm Movidius to boost its ambitions of giving “human-like sight” to connected devices.

Movidius makes system-on-a-chip (SoC) platforms that are designed to aid computer vision applications, and also has algorithms for things like deep learning, navigation and depth processing.

The idea is to be able to do on a mobile device the kind of heavy image interpretation that currently requires remote processing power somewhere off in the cloud. This should allow for quicker reactions and ultimately more autonomous machines.

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Movidius’s technology will be integrated with Intel’s RealSense depth-sensing camera tech, which is already found in a few webcams out there and is also being built into augmented reality headsets and drones.

In a blog post, Intel’s new technology chief Josh Walden named these areas of deployment alongside robotics and digital security cameras.

“We see massive potential for Movidius to accelerate our initiatives in new and emerging technologies,” Walden said. “The ability to track, navigate, map and recognize both scenes and objects using Movidius’ low-power and high-performance SoCs opens opportunities in areas where heat, battery life and form factors are key.”

Meanwhile, Movidius CEO Remi El-Ouazzane said the combination of the Dublin firm’s tech with RealSense would lead to “autonomous machines that can see in 3D, understand their surroundings and navigate accordingly.”

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“When computers can see, they can become autonomous and that’s just the beginning,” El-Ouazzane said. “We’re on the cusp of big breakthroughs in artificial intelligence. In the years ahead, we’ll see new types of autonomous machines with more advanced capabilities as we make progress on one of the most difficult challenges of AI: getting our devices not just to see, but also to think.”

Movidius earlier this year inked a deal with Google (GOOG) to supply chips for the U.S. giant’s mobile computer vision efforts. Again, the idea there is to help smartphones recognize faces and read signs without needing to call on the cloud and wait for a response.

Other customers include Lenovo (LNVGY), drone outfit DJI and thermal imaging company FLIR.

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