Huawei’s Kirin 970 chipset claims ded­i­cated ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence pro­cess­ing, but what does that mean?

HWM (Singapore) - - LEARN - By Liu Hongzuo


Huawei’s Kirin 970 chipset doesn’t only come with a tra­di­tional CPU and GPU. There’s a third pro­ces­sor, dubbed as the Neu­ral Pro­cess­ing Unit (NPU) that’s specif­i­cally built for AI-re­lated com­put­ing. In com­par­i­son to the CPU found on the same chipset, this NPU:

• Of­fers 25 times the per­for­mance at half the CPU’s size

• Con­sumes just 1/50th of power

Huawei uses all three pro­ces­sors (CPU, GPU, and now an NPU) in their lat­est Kirin 970 chipset. It does so by hand­ing off graph­i­cal ren­der­ing to the GPU, mem­ory al­lo­ca­tion and tasks sched­ul­ing to the CPU, and fi­nally, AI com­put­ing to the NPU alone. One ex­am­ple of an AI fea­ture is im­age recog­ni­tion (pic­tured). Should Huawei cor­rectly im­ple­ment this part of the NPU, it can re­sult in more ac­cu­rate smart­phone pho­tog­ra­phy, i.e., au­to­matic color-cor­rect­ing for a hu­man male with his brown pet dog.

It’s worth not­ing that the NPU does not have a ma­chine-learn­ing na­ture – Huawei specif­i­cally said that the AI is pre­loaded into the pro­ces­sor, and it uses its pro­gram­ming to do what it must. Should the al­go­rithm re­quire fine-tun­ing or new fea­tures, Huawei will pro­vide them as OTA (over-the-air) firmware up­dates.


While it’s not in charge of del­e­gat­ing work­load, the NPU has its fair share of tasks cut out, and it spans across var­i­ous pro­ces­sors on the Kirin 970 plat­form. Build­ing on the pho­tog­ra­phy ex­am­ple, Huawei’s NPU also as­sists the im­age sig­nal­ing pro­ces­sor (ISP) by:

• En­hanc­ing its re­sponse time through­put by 25%

• In­creas­ing its pro­cess­ing re­sponse vol­ume by 30%

• Pro­vid­ing dual-chan­nel par­al­lel pro­cess­ing

• De­tect­ing and em­ploy­ing var­i­ous mo­tions, i.e., static, slow, medium, and fast mo­tion

• Us­ing hard­ware-based face de­tec­tion

• Hav­ing an in­tel­li­gent cam­era scene de­tec­tion method

These im­prove­ments aim to help the pho­tog­ra­pher take less blurry pho­tos, with re­duced chances of missed shots due to the faster re­sponse by the chipset (and thus, the phones). The NPU also ‘un­locks’ cer­tain ca­pa­bil­i­ties pre­vi­ously un­avail­able to smart­phones; the user can em­ploy a 3x3 fo­cus-de­tec­tion area (as op­posed to your reg­u­lar de­tec­tion square), and the AI can pro­vide the con­text by read­ing other el­e­ments (back­ground, mood) to give an ideal bal­ance to the re­sult.

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