Arguably the most interesting feature in the Huawei Kirin 970 SoC is its NPU. The Kirin 970 NPU allows for much faster AI processing, with lower power consumption. But just how fast is the Kirin 970 NPU? And does it really matter that the Kirin 970 has an NPU? Read on and find out!
Learn more about the Kirin 970 SoC in The HUAWEI Kirin 970 Deep Dive Tech Report!
The Huawei Kirin 970 NPU
The Kirin 970 NPU offers 25X the AI processing performance of the CPU, at half the size. More importantly, it only consumers 1/50 the power of the CPU. It allows the Kirin 970 to recognise about 2005 images per minute, or about 33 per second. That is more than twice as fast as the new Apple iPhone 8 Plus, and 21X faster than the Samsung Galaxy S8.
Here is another video demonstrating how fast the Kirin 970 is compared to the Samsung Galaxy S8+ smartphone in AI image recognition :
Although Huawei is reticent about what apps will actually use the NPU, since it is not an industry-standard implementation (there are none so far). But they revealed that one feature that would use the NPU, and presumably appear in the Huawei Mate 10, is the AI Noise Reduction feature. They promise that it would increase the voice recognition rate from 80% to 92% even with background car noise.
Another feature they showcased was a Samsung Bixby-like app which uses AI algorithms to “guess” the size and weight of a food object, in order to give you an estimate of its caloric content. While this certainly is an interesting use of artificial intelligence, it is far from accurate, as the video shows:
Does It Matter?
While the Huawei Kirin 970 NPU speed is impressive, we have to point out that it is a proprietary implementation because there is no industry standard at the moment. Huawei has also stated that the NPU will be restricted to their flagship SoCs, and will not be added to lower-end SoCs.
In other words, there will be little impetus for developers to spend time and effort to develop apps specifically to make use of the Kirin 970 NPU.
Huawei has offered their HiAI API, as well as the HiKey 970 developer’s kit, so developers can quickly add AI computing capability to their apps. But until there is a substantial number of smartphones with the Kirin 970 NPU, we will not likely see third-party NPU-optimised apps being developed.
The Huawei Mate 10 will definitely ship with some built-in apps to make use of the Kirin 970 NPU, of course. However, it is more than likely they will be the only Kirin 970 NPU-optimised apps most users will be able to enjoy. It will take a few more years before NPU-optimised apps become commonplace.