The Intel Nervana Neural Network Processor (NNP) – formerly known as “Lake Crest” – is a high-performance ASIC that is purpose-built and optimized for deep learning. Under development for three and a half years, the new all-purpose AI processor, says the company, is designed to displace graphics processing units (GPUs) in the machine learning and AI space.
Key features of the Intel Nervana NNP include a new memory architecture designed for maximizing use of silicon computation, and a new numeric format called Flexpoint, which enables “a vast increase in parallelism on a die while simultaneously decreasing power per computation.” High-speed on- and off-chip interconnects enable the Nervana NNP to accommodate “massive” bi-directional data transfer, allowing multiple chips to act as one large virtual chip and achieving greater scalability AI models.
“The Intel Nervana NNP promises to revolutionize AI computing across myriad industries,” says Intel CEO Brian Krzanich. “Using Intel Nervana technology, companies will be able to develop entirely new classes of AI applications that maximize the amount of data processed and enable customers to find greater insights – transforming their businesses.”
The company offered several examples of new classes of AI applications that it says will be enabled by its Nervana technology:
- Health care: AI will allow for earlier diagnosis and greater accuracy, helping make the impossible possible by advancing research on cancer, Parkinson’s disease, and other brain disorders.
- Social media: Providers will be able to deliver a more personalized experience to their customers and offer more targeted reach to their advertisers.
- Automotive: The accelerated learning delivered in this new platform brings us another step closer to putting autonomous vehicles on the road.
- Weather: Consider the immense data required to understand movement, wind speeds, water temperatures and other factors that decide a hurricane’s path. Having a processor that takes better advantage of data inputs could improve predictions on how subtle climate shifts may increase hurricanes in different geographies.
“We have multiple generations of Intel Nervana NNP products in the pipeline that will deliver higher performance and enable new levels of scalability for AI models, “says Krzanich. “This puts us on track to exceed the goal we set last year of achieving 100 times greater AI performance by 2020.”
The Intel Nervana processor is expected to start shipping before the end of 2017.
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