The madness of IFA 2017 may have settled down, but that hasn't stopped Huawei from unveiling its new SoC, the Kirin 970. Under its in-house HiSilicon brand, the Chinese giant seeks to push the boundaries of what is possible with mobile AI. And yes, there are the typical SoC improvements here, too.

Built on a 10nm process, the Kirin 970 sports eight cores and the new 12-core ARM Mali-G72 GPU. There's a new dual ISP on board, too, which will offer things like better noise reduction; a 4.5G modem is also along for the ride, allowing for up to Cat 18 speeds.

The truly interesting part is the Neural Processing Unit (NPU). This addition takes the AI computing load off of the main processor cores, allowing for "25x the performance with 50x the efficiency." Basically, it can theoretically do the same AI stuff much faster than other SoCs on the market. Huawei is also opening up the platform for developers to mess around and find new ways to take advantage of the Kirin 970's capabilities.

We should see this SoC in the forthcoming Mate 10 — color me very, very intrigued.

Press Release

[Berlin, Germany, September 2, 2017] Today at IFA 2017, Huawei Consumer Business Group unveiled a new era in smartphone innovation. In a keynote address, Richard Yu, CEO of Huawei Consumer Business Group revealed Huawei’s vision for the future of artificial intelligence with the launch of the Kirin 970. By combining the power of the cloud with the speed and responsiveness of native AI processing, Huawei is bringing AI experiences to life and changing the way we interact with our devices.

“As we look to the future of smartphones, we’re at the threshold of an exciting new era,” Yu said. “Mobile AI = On-Device AI + Cloud AI. Huawei is committed to turning smart devices into intelligent devices by building end-to-end capabilities that support coordinated development of chips, devices, and the cloud. The ultimate goal is to provide a significantly better user experience. The Kirin 970 is the first in a series of new advances that will bring powerful AI features to our devices and take them beyond the competition.”

After years of development, Cloud AI has seen broad application, but user experience still has room for improvement in areas such as latency, stability, and privacy. The goal is for Cloud AI and On-Device AI to complement each other. On-Device AI offers strong sensing capabilities, that are the foundation of understanding and assisting people. Sensors produce a large amount of real-time, scenario-specific, and personalized data. Supported by strong chip processing capabilities, devices will become more cognitive of user needs, providing truly personalized and readily accessible services.

The Kirin 970 is powered by an 8-core CPU and a new generation 12-core GPU. Built using a 10nm advanced process, the chipset packs 5.5 billion transistors into an area of only one cm². Huawei’s new flagship Kirin 970 is Huawei’s first mobile AI computing platform featuring a dedicated Neural Processing Unit (NPU). Compared to a quad-core Cortex-A73 CPU cluster, the Kirin 970's new heterogeneous computing architecture delivers up to 25x the performance with 50x greater efficiency. Simply put, the Kirin 970 can perform the same AI computing tasks faster and with far less power. In a benchmark image recognition test, the Kirin 970 processed 2,000 images per minute, which was faster than other chips on the market.

New developments in AI require joint effort across the entire value chain, involving tens of millions of developers, and the experience and feedback of hundreds of millions of users. Huawei is positioning the Kirin 970 as an open platform for mobile AI, opening up the chipset to developers and partners who can find new and innovative uses for its processing capabilities.