Amazon is considering the option to build its own AI chip customized for Echo devices, according to a report from The Information.
Amazon Echo devices are currently powered by various chip models. For example, the Echo show is using Intel Atom processor while the Echo Dot has a TI chipset. The voice recognition is not performed locally, but processed via Amazon’s cloud computing service.
This strategy is fine and allows Amazon to bring the latest upgrades to users’ devices continuously. The downside is that it takes longer to process a user’s voice command and to respond, compared with an embedded chip with AI computing capabilities.
When local AI, Echo can respond to certain basic tasks in a shorter time, such as telling the time or setting up a timer. This can better ensure user privacy as well, since not all data are required to be sent to the cloud for processing.
Amazon bought chip maker Annapurna Labs in 2015, and security camera maker Blink at the end of 2017. As such, the company has chip talent and it’s just a matter of time before it decides to enter the market and creates its own chips.
It’s also a strategy commonly adopted by companies like Apple and Google. Apple has started developing its own chips for iPhones, to give it a better graphic performance. Along with its self-designed software comes better power management unit. This gives the iPhone maker greater independence from suppliers. Apple’s latest A11 chip features machine learning algorithms that power its Face ID and ARKit features.
Google, on the other hand, has invested in its own AI hardware for years and has developed custom ASIC processor called the TPU that handles TensorFlow AI training platform. The TPU is also the key to power the AlphaGo system, which defeated other players in the game Go.
As Google and Apple are both competing with Amazon in the smart home market, it seems to make sense for the e-commerce giant to start making its own chips for the popular Echo devices. Amazon declined to comment after The Information’s report was published.