Author(s): Raghu Gopal
In March 2016, we covered developments at Movidius, a maker of visual processing units (VPUs) from California. We expected VPUs, sensors that enable devices with an artificial form of sight, to become more common, allowing a wide range of enterprise and consumer products to become aware of their environments. From drones to tablets, hardware with VPU capabilities could behave in context to its surroundings (see Drones Gain the Power of Sense).
The same potential has clearly been spotted by Intel, which has now acquired Movidius.
Movidius' VPUs are designed specifically to enable efficient vision-sensing applications that have a very small power budget, such as drones, smartphones and other gadgets. For example, the company's Myriad 2 processor consumes less than 1 watt of power, making it a useful component to enable a new user experience in mobile devices. Myriad's vision processors are already being used by Google and Lenovo as well as drone maker DJI and thermal imaging provider Flir. They are also being built into security cameras and virtual and augmented reality headsets.
Intel already had a depth-sensing camera in its RealSense component, which enables systems to view in 3D supported by Intel's cloud computing solutions. Its acquisition of Movidius allows Intel to broaden its capabilities in computer vision and cognitive computing.
Intel has made a series of recent acquisitions to enable the development of machines that are both aware of their surroundings and able to learn and adapt over time. In October 2015, for example, Intel bought Saffron Technology, whose products mimic the human brain in how it learns and processes information. And this past August Intel bought Nervana Systems, a start-up that develops software and hardware for machine learning.
As the market for PCs contracts and the market for smartphone processors eludes it, Intel is looking for growth in newer hardware categories such as drones and wearable devices. Looking to venture into this next wave of computing, the company is making some clever acquisitions that will allow it to offer unique combinations of enabler components to its customers. It's clear that Intel has a vision with the acquisition of Movidius.