If you are using the latest iPhone or MacBook then you are having a device powered by Apple Neural Engine also called ANE. Apple Neural Engine is a modern technology integrated into all the latest Apple devices used to in advance features like face recognition, image, and video processing.
Let’s find out what Apple Neural Engine is, how it works, and how Apple uses it.
What Is the Apple Neural Engine?
Apple Neural Engine (ANE); one of the key components of Apple Silicon is a type of NPU called Neural Processing Unit. NPU is an efficient processor specifically designed to improve the performance of machine learning tasks, typically neural network applications.
In other words, Apple Neural Engine (ANE) is highly optimized compute cores integrated into Apple designed chips to perform neutral networks and accelerated ML and DL related calculations on Apple devices being faster and energy efficient.
Before understanding how Apple Neural Engine works, let’s learn the basics of Artificial Intelligence.
Apple Neural Engine (ANE) and Artificial Intelligence (AI)
From an ordinary algorithm to advance machine learning algorithms AI has evolved much in the last few years. This advancement of Artificial Intelligence has changed the world in terms of handling complex problems which is hardly possible in the last few decades.
Nowadays, AI is everywhere, it is in your smartphone, in your smart appliances, and even in your TV. Whether you are using maps, searching for recommendations on the internet, editing an image, and even chatting for assistance, artificial intelligence is helping you. AI has made complex tasks quite easy. AI monitors your activity and based on that provides you the best outcome, the process is called Machine Learning (ML).
What Is Machine Learning (ML)
Machine learning; an important part of AI relies on data, processes it, improves it, and gives the best outcome.
Today machine learning is a key part of any technology whether it is software, or even hardware. AI is being integrated in the hardware through AI Accelerators.
What Is an AI Accelerator?
AI accelerator is a type of hardware accelerator specifically made to perform artificial intelligence related operations such as machine learning (ML), deep learning (DL) which are typical neutral network activities. Core functionality of an AI accelerator is to minimize power consumption while performing ML tasks. Apple Neural Engine (ANE) is a type of AI accelerator introduced in Apple silicon chips to enhance the AI functionality in Apple devices.
Apple Neural Engine (ANE) – How It Started?
The first Neutral Engine (ANE) based device was iPhone X which was launched in 2017 and powerful enough to manage face ID and Animoji.
Apple improved the technology and made it much faster in the second generation of ANE came in 2018. 5 trillion operations per second in comparison to 600 billion operations per second in the previous generation was a huge jump. Next year (2019) ANE technology was made even more efficient by reducing its overall power consumption.
In 2020 ANE was made to perform 11 trillion operations per second. Apple used the same ANE in the M1 macs. Apple is now using ANE in iPads as well.
Apple Introduction of Arm Processor for Macs
Apple started working on ARM based processors to get rid of Intel’s x86 architecture which is less efficient when it comes to power consuming. Apple has already been using ARM processors known as A-Series for iOS devices such as iPhone, and iPads. Implementing ARM architecture to desktops and laptops was entirely a new concept.
Apple launched the first MacBook based on ARM processor in November 2020 and called it M1 powered MacBooks.
Solely focused on performance, M1 was one of the fastest CPUs by Apple. It was the first chip in which Apple used 5 nanometer technology and first ever chip with 16 billion transistors.
M1 chip is the first SoC (system-on-the-chip) designed by Apple for Macs.
M1 chips is a combination of various components:
- Unified Memory Architecture
- SSD Controller
- Image Processor
- Neural Engine
Porting ARM chips and Apple Neural Engine (ANE) to Macs was a big shift. Main reason behind this shift is to design more powerful, energy efficient and introducing custom chips for Macs.
x86 architecture uses a CISC instruction set which completes complex computation in a single cycle and hence consumes more power. On the other hand, ARM processors use RISC instructions set in complex computation processes with multiple instructions.
One of the key components of M-Series processors is the Apple Neural Engine. To fully understand how a neural engine works, let’s learn what a neural network is.
What Is Neural Network
Neural network is a technique of artificial intelligence that trains the computer to imitate the human brain.
A neutral network model typically contains three layers, one is the input layer, second is hidden layer, and the third is output layer.
The data is taken from the input layer and presented in the output layer. In order to perform some additional functionality, the hidden layer uses the input layer to perform operation and gives the output.
Purpose of Apple Neural Engine (ANE) in Apple Silicon
The purpose of introducing the Neutral Engine in Apple Silicon is to improve the Machine Learning related tasks.
ANE unit is not replacing the CPU or GPU, it is an in-fact dedicated unit solely focused on improving video analysis, image processing, face, and speech recognition. ANE will perform these tasks faster than CPU.
How Does Apple Neural Engine Work
Apple Neural Engine consists of multiple engine cores to perform parallel computing where trillions of iterations can be performed simultaneously. Apple Neural Engine has its own cache to enhance the performance.
Features Powered by Apple Neural Engine (ANE)
Some of the key functionalities controlled by ANE are:
- Faster and more reliable voice recognition for Siri specifically.
- Text extraction from photos taken from Camera app.
- Finding specific objects in the images.
- Augmented Reality: calculating the area of the house.
- Camera effects including background blurring while Facetime calls.
- Removing noise from the photos, improving exposure, and adjusting backgrounds.
Neural Networks help computers make decisions with limited human interference. It is powerful enough to differentiate between two different sentences with the same meaning.
Integration of Apple Neural Engine (ANE) into Apple Silicon is a big boost to Apple technology. It has made it easier to perform complex operations on devices without explicitly programming them such as visual recognition, and speech recognition. and even identifying objects in the images. Artificial intelligence is the future and it is expected to expand by a huge percentage in the next few years.