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How AI Powers Mobile Innovation

From crowd-pleasing video and audio advancements to behind-the-scenes performance optimization, the Qualcomm Technologies Snapdragon 888 5G Mobile Platform uses AI to take your mobile experience to the next level.

RV Studios for Qualcomm
4 min read
Photo by Damedeeso

2021 has been a banner year for mobile technology. A quick glance at the reviews on CNET reveals record-shattering device features in numerous categories:

The ASUS ROG 5 gaming phone, for example, has the "longest battery life of any Android phone we've ever tested."

The Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra has, "tons of brag material," with largest-ever camera sensors and an attention-grabbing second screen on the back panel.

Then there's the CNET Editor's Choice Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G, with "the absolute best specs and features." Our reviewers were particularly impressed with image capture features such as 100x digital zoom and simultaneous thumbnail previews of video feeds coming from the S21 Ultra's multiple cameras.

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All these cutting-edge devices have one very important factor in common: They're all running on the Qualcomm Technologies Snapdragon 888 5G Mobile Platform.

The Role of AI

Most users don't realize that artificial intelligence is the key to extended battery life, real-time image adjustments, natural-language processing (NLP), noise reduction, and more. But how does a phone 'know' which element of an image to focus on, or which sounds count as 'noise' and which count as 'signal?' The answer is that its processor has 'learned' from millions of similar operations, with all that learning focused on real-time mobile use cases. 

This kind of machine learning makes Snapdragon 888 central to mobile experiences. The sixth-generation Qualcomm AI Engine is capable of performing 26 trillion operations per second. The chipset optimizes voice and video features plus internal functions at the same time, leading to unprecedented capability and unprecedented efficiency. "It's not just at the use case level," explained Ziad Asghar, Vice President of Product Management for Qualcomm Technologies. "AI is also being applied to every technology block within the Snapdragon platform, improving the way the modem works, the way the cameras work, the way power consumption works, and so on."

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Compression or quantization reduce the model size of a deep neural network so it can run on mobile chipsets.

In addition to optimizing the hardware, Qualcomm Technologies has also made tremendous strides in designing AI models that are lean and efficient, so they can execute quickly on mobile devices without sacrificing precision. "The software is very complex," Asghar said. "Our AI Model Efficiency Toolkit enables more processing with less power, with a low accuracy tradeoff."

Can You Hear Me Now?

When you're making a phone call or a video call on a Snapdragon 888-powered device, you'll notice that unwanted sounds and echoes are suppressed, voice-activated apps and functions work quickly and flawlessly, and the cameras focus automatically and zoom instantly even while filming at 60 frames per second. These are all enabled by running or "inferencing" multiple "neural networks" -- massive sets of calculations that infer the best experience for you -- running at the same time. 

Photography purists may scoff at the idea of a computer making in-the-moment decisions about focus and composition, but the AI starts with millions of images worth of 'experience,' and then it learns from professional photographers. "AI is only as good as the data," Asghar shared. "For automatic cropping, you can get a good experience [immediately], but there is also reinforcement learning on the device... It can detect how many people are in the family and customize itself to the user. Plus, the neural model learns from your preferences." 

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Photo by Demkat

With AI running on Snapdragon 888, users can apply filters and virtual backgrounds -- even swap out characters and textures -- to video in real time. This kind of instant responsiveness takes augmented and virtual reality to the next level, as well. Users can even carry on a conversation with someone from another country, who is speaking another language, with NLP translating the words and 'speaking' them in a virtually true approximation of the speaker's voice.

It Takes An Ecosystem

As we mentioned, Qualcomm Technologies provides the optimized hardware and software on which to run these futuristic mobile applications. A broad ecosystem of independent software vendor (ISV) partners builds on this foundation to deliver new and improved experiences. The Qualcomm Platform Solutions Ecosystem (PSE) program allows software and application vendors to pre-integrate and optimize their solutions to create the best possible user experience and feature differentiation for OEMs.

"The Qualcomm PSE program and the Qualcomm Neural Processing SDK (software development kit) lets our ISVs use the hardware in the best way possible," Asghar said. One example is ArcSoft's Smooth Zoom feature for computational photography; another is the use of real-time NLP with models curated by Hugging Face

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The advantages of running these complex AI models on the device -- rather than uploading data into the cloud, analyzing it there, and then returning results -- are many. First, there's less transmission of data, which is more energy-efficient. Second, staying on-device means calculations are completed faster, with less latency between input and output. Third, keeping the data local helps ensure privacy and avoid leaks.

With the addition of 5G connectivity, this kind of compute power at the 'edge' -- close to the data source -- has the potential to accelerate AI for all devices that are connected to the cloud. Asghar suggested that Qualcomm Technologies innovations have applications far beyond mobile devices, extending to datacenter optimization and always-connected PCs. "If you're talking to someone and you suggest a meeting, why can't your computer schedule it automatically?" he mused. 

It may sound like science fiction, but AI running on the Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 5G Mobile Platform delivers experiences that are real, and spectacular, right now. To learn more about Qualcomm Technologies, please visit www.qualcomm.com.

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Photo by Obradovic