This comes on the heels of its rivals Apple and Google, developing custom AI hardware at various scales.

Amazon likely to manufacture custom AI chips to improve Alexas performance
Atom Tech Shorts Friday, February 16, 2018 - 13:10

Amazon is joining the rank of biggies such as Apple and Google by getting into manufacturing of its own chipsets for the artificial intelligence-based products build around its digital assistant Alexa. In particular, focus is Amazon’s home speaker Echo. The basic idea behind the move is to shift to an on-device processor that can help with rapid responses to users’ commands, in place of the current dependence on the cloud to provide with the solutions and the loss of time in the process.

Details are yet to emerge as to how exactly Amazon expects to make the chips in light of the company not having any previous direct manufacturing experience. Some of the established makers of chips will definitely be affected by this decision by Amazon. Some of them, like Intel and Nvidia had even switched to making AI-based chips hoping to fulfill the increasing demand from customers, including Amazon.

The home speaker segment is already turning highly competitive and if players, like Samsung enter the US market, with their Bixby voice assistant duly developed to handle voice commands in multiple languages, it could become even more difficult to hold on to the market share Amazon’s Echo enjoys now. It is from this perspective that Amazon has already created a 450-strong division with chip expertise to handle the new developments. Amazon has had a game plan in place for some time, as seen by the acquisition of a couple of firms, Annapurna Labs, making chips and Blink, a camera making unit. Many of the new staff f for the chip division have been drawn from these companies.

As mentioned, Apple and Google moved into hardware making in-house long back. Many of their products, including iPhones and the special features in them, are driven by these chips designed and made by the company. AI is at least one segment where Apple has exclusive control over technology, with its neural engine.

Google, on the other hand, has a processor Tensor Processing Unit or TPU, which is a custom-designed AI based chip with special machine learning capabilities.

With Amazon joining the race, interesting times are ahead in the AI based chipsets space.

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