Over a decade ago, smartphones were ‘smart’ simply because they were mobile devices that could connect to the internet and enable their users to perform tasks that they would ordinarily do on a computer. However, in 2018 and the near future, it is AI advancements that will take smartphones to a whole new level of intelligence. Analyst Gartner recently predicted that, by 2022, 80 percent of smartphones will have on-device AI capabilities, compared to just 10 per cent in 2017.
Currently, two of the main ways AI enhances the user’s smartphone experience is through its improvement in performance and camera capabilities. One such device that really excels in these two key aspects is the new Huawei Mate 20 Pro.
Better performance and efficiency
The secret behind the Huawei Mate 20 Pro’s enhanced performance is the Kirin 980, the world’s first 7nm system-on-a-chip (SoC), which enables it to pack 6.9 billion transistors in the same form factor as its predecessor. A 7nm processor can perform up to 20 percent faster and at 40 percent improved efficiency over its 10nm counterparts. The process technology is strongly correlated to mobile SoC performance and efficiency, and the advanced process technology is the foundation of an enhanced user experience.
The launch of the Kirin 980 represents another step towards an era of truly intelligent smartphones. Its predecessor, the Kirin 970, which was behind the impressive performance of the Huawei Mate 10 and Huawei P20, was the first SoC that came with a dedicated AI processor. The Kirin 980, however, is the industry’s first mobile SoC to be equipped with two neural processing units (NPUs). The Dual-NPU setup gives greater AI processing power, which allows even richer AI experiences. Huawei’s HiAI platform combines the power of chipset, device and cloud to bring together an unrivalled AI experience.
In response to the demand for even more improvements in the chipset, Huawei integrated the Cortex-A76 and Mali-G76—two new processors that were never before seen in other SoCs—into the Kirin 980. The new A76 cores feature vastly improved performance and efficiency, up 75 percent and 58 percent respectively. Huawei also developed a new Kirin CPU subsystem based on the multi-core architecture to further enhance the SoC’s performance and efficiency. In addition to a series of optimisations, the new solution improves the compatibility of various device processes to the CPU. Kirin CPU enables the SoC to unleash its greatest potential in both performance and efficiency.
In terms of GPU, the Mali-G76 embedded within Kirin 980 delivers 46 percent more graphics processing power and 178 percent better power efficiency. Kirin 980 also features an innovative AI clock boosting technology, GPU Turbo, which can intelligently identify the performance bottlenecks by reading the frame rate, frame time, user input and processor workload, and adjust accordingly in real time. GPU Turbo is particularly useful for gamers, as it works 30 percent better in predicting the resource utilisation of games compared to conventional solutions. By improving the average frame rate and minimising the stuttering, users can enjoy a much smoother gaming experience.
In 2017, the launch of Huawei’s Kirin 970 gave the industry and consumers a glimpse into the potential of AI in enhancing technology. The Kirin 980 represents another breakthrough. Its new-generation image signal processor (ISP) features 46% increased throughput, enhanced the noise reduction and colour reproduction capabilities, as well as better support for multi-camera setups. These features allow users to capture incredible images with ease.
Leveraging the powerful Dual-NPU On-Device AI processing capability, the Kirin 980 provides an even better real-time user experience in areas such as facial recognition, object recognition, object detection, image segmentation, AI translation, and more. The Kirin 980 can recognise up to 4,500 images per minute, which is a 120% increase from its predecessor and greater than the industry average.
An exciting tool enabled by this technology is HiVision, which recognises classical art and popular landmarks and can translate the text of a range of languages in real time. It can also estimate the calories and nutritional value of a hundred types of different foodstuffs.
The Kirin 980 also supports multi-person motion prediction, which accurately reads the motion of human subjects at up to 30fps and can rig their 3D model in real time. When a user attempts to snap a photo of a moving person, the ISP can track the object with 97.4 percent accuracy, so any user can capture fleeting moments with ease.
Going from the Kirin 970 to the Kirin 980, Huawei brought AI to another level—the new SoC with its Dual-NPU goes beyond image recognition to support object detection. It also provides better support to multi-camera configurations, as well as an all-new HDR colour reproduction technology that can manipulate picture contrast to highlight objects on various parts of an image. This AI Colour feature is a nifty tool for videographers, as it can isolate the people you want to focus on and keep them in colour, while fading the surroundings to black and white. You can also edit your videos in real-time with a range of filters, such as Suspense and Fresh.
The good news for smartphone users is that AI is still in its infancy, so smartphone devices of the future will only perform better, act more intuitively, and be more useful.
By Huawei CTO, Akhram Mohamed