Microsoft has announced that it will be packing AI smarts into its next-gen HoloLens headset, which will make it more nimble without an internet connection.
The HoloLens 2 (which will probably just be named HoloLens) will include an AI coproccessor that will let the headset analyze objects without needing to access the cloud. This will make object recognition, hand tracking and other tasks faster to perform, as it will all be done natively, while keeping the headset mobile.
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HoloLens is designed to be a completely standalone Windows 10 experience, but leaning on an internet connection reduces that independence. As HoloLens director of science Marc Pollefeys wrote in a blog post, "This is the kind of thinking you need if you're going to develop mixed reality devices that are themselves intelligent". Custom silicon is the secret to building this AI onboard without it being a massive suck on the battery.
All that said, there's no sign yet that HoloLens is ready for a wider release. Currently you'll need to cough up an eye-watering $3,000 for the developer version. Microsoft plans to shift towards you and I eventually, but right now its value lies in enterprise.
Microsoft isn't the only one bringing silicon-creation in-house. Google is doing the same for its own machine learning, and there's every chance we'll see this seeping into future mobile devices and wearables, meaning it can lean less on companies like Qualcomm and Intel. Meanwhile Apple is also rumored to be working on its own dedicated AI chip.