MediaTek’s Helio P90 chip has more A.I. tech than the entire Terminator franchise

Smartphones injected with artificial intelligence often cost quite a lot of money, but what if you could access this technology for a lot less? Sounds tempting doesn’t it, and that’s what MediaTek is aiming for with its next mobile processor, the Helio P90, which it will officially announce on December 13.

If you’re reading this and thinking you’ve seen such a claim before, it’s because MediaTek has a similar plan for the Helio P70 chip, which it revealed at the end of October. The Helio P90 goes several stages further than the P70, with MediaTek claiming the chip’s A.I. abilities have taken a three-fold leap over those offered by the P60 and P70. It will achieve this by using two application processing units (APU), and a new A.I. Accelerator (AIA).

Artificial intelligence on a mobile device has been demonstrated effectively by Huawei and the Kirin 970 and Kirin 980 chips, which use a single or dual Neural Processing Unit setup to deal with the demands of A.I., as well as by Google’s Visual Core chip inside the Google Pixel 2 and Pixel 3.  The difference is, Huawei’s P20 Pro and Mate 20 Pro are around $1,000, and the Pixel 3 starts at $799. MediaTek’s Helio P-series chips are used in much cheaper phones. For example, the first Helio P70 phone, the RealMe U1, costs the equivalent of just $170. Even if a Helio P90 phone is three times this price, it’ll still be half the price of a Kirin 980-powered phone.

What can we expect from a phone with a Helio P90? We won’t know everything until the launch in December, but the company has said the A.I. will increase speed for face recognition in both the security system and the selfie camera, but the biggest benefits will come in the camera. It’s not giving everything away, but MediaTek said the chip will reduce noise in low-light photos — at 4x faster speeds — and improve scene recognition techniques, plus provide real-time enhancements for stills and video.

These are all features mainly associated with high-end phone cameras. Using Huawei and Google as examples, their A.I. prowess is demonstrated by Night Mode and Night Sight, which takes astonishing low-light images without the need for a tripod. Huawei’s most recent phone also can blur out the background in videos in real time as well. We don’t know if the Helio P90 chip will deliver features like this, but it may offer something similar.

MediaTek’s attracting developers to make use of the new A.I. abilities by supporting the right frameworks — from TensorFlow and Caffe/Caffe2, to Google’s Android Neural Networks, and its own NeuroPilot development kit — which is essential to these features being used more widely on Helio P90 phones in the future.

If MediaTek’s Helio P90 can come close to replicating an A.I.-driven camera experience on a phone that costs half of what we expect it to, we’re excited about the announcement, and you should be too. Expensive phones are only getting more expensive, so why shouldn’t cheaper phones get better?  We’ll bring you more on the new chip when MediaTek provides all the official details on December 13.

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