Artificial intelligence technology promises to revolutionize our lives. The world's largest chipmaker is working feverishly to make sure it can profit from the change.
We all know processors are the brains of a computer. But the booming field of artificial intelligence takes the metaphor to a whole new level -- and Intel wants to make sure it's propelling the change, not being left behind.
Despite Intel's financial might and technological prowess, the company stumbled with the last big overhaul of the computing industry, the arrival of smartphones, tablets and mobile devices. The company's high-profile "Intel Inside" publicity campaign failed to extend beyond its PC stronghold.
With AI, though, the company is determined to be a key player to profit from the technology that could transform just about everything you do.
"Intel is committed to deliver the next generation of AI," said Chief Executive Brian Krzanich, speaking Thursday at a company event in San Francisco to show off a smorgasbord of Intel AI products and plans.
Artificial intelligence research has lurked in academic circles for decades, but new work from companies like Facebook, Microsoft, Apple and Google have made AI into one of the hottest areas in computing. AI systems recognize your friends in photos, screen out spam emails, read photo captions to blind people, and figure out what word you're likely to type next on your keyboard.
And that's just today. The same way appliances replaced domestic servants and robots replaced assembly-line workers, AI could replace humans in white-collar jobs in medicine, law, accounting, and more.
Intel struggled for years to build its mobile processor business, but AI technology is closer to core businesses, like powering most of the machines in Google and Facebook data centers.
But there are still plenty of challengers. Nvidia, for example, has repurposed its graphics chips popular for video games into data center processors good for AI work. And Google is designing its own custom AI processors, too. BMO Capital Markets said in a Thursday report it expects Nvidia data center revenue for 2016 to more than double to about $800 million. Intel should clear $17 billion, but its growth is much slower right now.
But AI could change Intel's growth rate.
"Artificial intelligence is the next big computing opportunity," said Doug Davis, an Intel senior vice president.
Intel's work ranges from processors to high-level work making AI software easier to use. A key priority is democratization, so you don't need a Ph.D. to benefit from AI.
Expect more changes from Intel, its competitors and partners. "The AI market is still in its infancy," Krzanich said.