Intel plans a big future for deep learning on every platform

17 Aug 2018

Image: Buffaloboy/Shutterstock

In acquiring Vertex.AI for its Movidius unit, Intel is envisioning a tomorrow where deep learning will feature in many aspects of business.

Chip giant Intel has acquired Vertex.AI, a Seattle start-up that is developing deep learning for every platform.

The start-up will join the Movidius group, which is focused on self-learning and artificial intelligence (AI) technology on a myriad of devices.

Intel acquired Movidius in 2016 for an undisclosed sum, rumoured to be in the region of $300m. This was part of a $1bn spending spree on AI tech companies, including Mighty AI, DataRobot, Lumiata, AEye and others. It also acquired Israel-based autotech player Mobileye for $15.3bn.

Vertex.AI is building a deep-learning engine called PlaidML. The company was founded in 2015 by Choong Ng and Jeremy Bruestle.

Intel plans to continue developing PlaidML as an open source project and will shortly transition it to the Apache 2.0 licence.

“Supporting a variety of hardware will continue to be a priority for the PlaidML project, which Intel will further develop as an Intel nGraph back-end,” Vertex.AI said on its homepage.

“We are excited to advance flexible deep learning for edge computing as part of Intel.”

Computing at the edge

The acquisition plays into Intel’s broader vision of AI and deep learning being core to the next wave of computing on edge devices.

These edge devices range from internet of things (IoT) devices in the home to in-car tech, drone devices and a lot more. As such, building AI and deep-learning capabilities into its chips is a priority for Intel as it moves beyond the era of PCs.

Recent Intel Movidius technologies enable machine learning and AI at the edge. Products from the merged company include a $79 AI stick that turns ordinary hardware into AI machines as well as the breakthrough Myriad X chip that makes machines think and see like humans.

The Myriad X processor is capable of delivering a dedicated neural compute engine for enabling deep learning at the edge, especially on machines such as drones and robots.

Movidius, founded in Dublin by David Moloney and Sean Mitchell more than a decade ago, was set up to bring deep learning and AI to devices such as smartphones.

Movidius struck lucrative deals with Google to power its VR headsets, as well as with Chinese drone maker DJI to make the world’s most intelligent drones.

With the acquisition of Vertex.AI, Intel is drinking deeper from the cup of autonomous computing at the edge.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years