Apple Acquires Xnor.ai

On-device AI creator Xnor.ai was recently acquired by Apple. The new technology may make your iPhone smarter, without a round-trip to the cloud.

By Chand Bellur

January 21, 2020 at 4:36 p.m. PDT

Apple Acquires Xnor.ai for $200 Million

Founded by professors Ali Farhadi and Dr. Mohammed Rastegari, Xnor.ai develops efficient, on-device artificial intelligence technology. Apple’s acquisition of the company signals development of a deeper AI program.

Most artificial intelligence operations are run on servers, with the client device (ex. iPhone) merely sending data and retrieving a solution. For example, when you ask Siri for weather conditions, your iPhone sends your request as voice data to a server. The server interprets and executes the voice request, sending back a result.

The iPhone itself is incapable of handling many advanced tasks. If you’re offline, Siri and dictation don’t work. Both services rely on server-side components to do the heavy lifting.

While the A-series processors now feature some AI systems directly on the chip, the critical part of an Apple device’s brain lives on servers. The problem is that we’re not always online. Bypassing a round trip to the cloud, on-device AI is also capable of executing faster than server-based solutions.

Xnor.ai Excels at On-Device AI

Apple’s acquisition of Xnor.ai makes perfect sense. Apple creates smart devices that lean on server-side technology. Processing AI directly on a device is faster, and in the case of Xnor.ai, also more efficient. The latter benefit is essential for mobile device users requiring long battery life.

Xnor.ai technology is already used by other manufacturers for purposes such as person detection. The company demonstrated an artificial intelligence processor that can operate on solar power, due to its unparalleled efficiency. Incorporating Xnor.ai’s technology into Apple products will take time, however, the benefits will be reaped by consumers and Apple alike.

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