At the annual Snapdragon Summit in Hawaii, Qualcomm unveiled the next Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 for premium mobile devices. As usual, it is a tour de force of features that make Qualcomm-powered handsets the envy of the Android world, especially when it comes to AI-powered features.
What has Qualcomm Announced?
We will focus on the AI enhancements here, leaving the other features to respective experts to cover. As Chris Patrick, Qualcomm SVP, said in his keynote, “The Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 was built for AI”, adding AI blocks to all the important blocks of IP.
First, the Qualcomm AI Engine is being upgraded with a new Hexagon Processor with a focus on natural language and camera applications. A new tensor accelerator can increase performance by over 4-fold, and supports 4-bit integer operations. This translates to a 60% increase in performance per watt for AI inferencing.
The Hexagon Processor also now supports a new innovation called “microtiles” which in effect doubles the size of tensors the processor can handle in processing Transformer networks. Transformers have been getting a lot of attention (pun intended for those in the know) in the data center, and now we are seeing Qualcomm preparing for these generative AI models in handsets.
Second, the sensing hub, which first got its own AI processor in Snapdragon 8 Gen 1, will now have a dual AI processors to enable such things a custom wake words at very low power. This means that the camera can send information to the sensing hub while the phone is “off”, for things like QR codes.
In another industry first, Qualcomm also added an AI processor to their 5G modem system. This should help provide support for beamforming and other modem functions without loading down the AI engine, which can concentrate on other applications such as computational photography.
Speaking of photography, the QCOMM design team decided to give the Spectra ISP direct access to the Hexagon DSP, realizing that photography needs the full AI engine. This enables the so-called “Cognitive-ISP”, an image processor that can provide segmentation in real-time as well as a host of other AI-enabled features.
It looks to us that Qualcomm has decided there is very little on a mobile phone that cannot be improved with AI, from the camera to the sensing hub to the modem. While the competition (i.e., Apple) is also adding a lot of AI-specific features, we Snapdragon 8 Gen2 seems to be far out in front, while the research we have previously covered is still in the wings heading to your next phone. As we have said in the past, Qualcomm is the leader in mobile AI, which is the centerpiece to achieve distributed intelligence.