Thursday, 15 November 2018 21:55

VIDEOS: Intel's new Neural Compute Stick 2 means smarter AI edge devices

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Intel hosted its first AI dev conference in Beijing, and kicked off the event by introducing its "Intel Neural Compute Stick 2", designed to build smarter AI algorithms and for prototyping computer vision at the network edge.

The Intel Neutral Compute Stick 2, also known as the NCS 2, is based on the Intel's "Movidius Myriad X vision processing unit (VPU)" and is supported by the "Intel Distribution of OpenVINO toolkit", with the company claiming the NCS 2 "affordably speeds the development of deep neural networks inference applications while delivering a performance boost over the previous generation neural compute stick".

Bringing "computer vision and AI to Internet of Things and edge device prototypes is easy with the enhanced capabilities of the Intel NCS 2. For developers working on a smart camera, a drone, an industrial robot or the next must-have smart home device, the Intel NCS 2 offers what’s needed to prototype faster and smarter".

We're told the NCS 2 "enables deep neural network testing, tuning and prototyping, so developers can go from prototyping into production leveraging a range of Intel vision accelerator form factors in real-world applications".

Naveen Rao, Intel's corporate vice-president and general manager of the AI Products Group, said: "The first-generation Intel Neural Compute Stick sparked an entire community of AI developers into action with a form factor and price that didn’t exist before.

"We’re excited to see what the community creates next with the strong enhancement to compute power enabled with the new Intel Neural Compute Stick 2.”

What looks like a standard USB thumb drive hides much more inside, as the NCS 2 is "powered by the latest generation of Intel VPU – the Intel Movidius Myriad X VPU. This is the first to feature a neural compute engine – a dedicated hardware neural network inference accelerator delivering additional performance".

Combined with the Intel Distribution of the OpenVINO toolkit supporting more networks, Intel said its NCS 2 "offers developers greater prototyping flexibility. Additionally, thanks to the Intel AI: In Production ecosystem, developers can now port their Intel NCS 2 prototypes to other form factors and productise their designs".

Here's the first of Intel's two videos:

So, how does it work?

Well, with a laptop and the Intel NCS 2, Intel said "developers can have their AI and computer vision applications up and running in minutes. The Intel NCS 2 runs on a standard USB 3.0 port and requires no additional hardware, enabling users to seamlessly convert and then deploy PC-trained models to a wide range of devices natively and without internet or cloud connectivity".

"The first-generation Intel NCS, launched in July 2017, has fuelled a community of tens of thousands of developers, has been featured in more than 700 developer videos and has been utilised in dozens of research papers. Now with greater performance in the NCS 2, Intel is empowering the AI community to create even more ambitious applications."

What happened at Intel's AI DevCon Beijing

More than 1000 AI developers, researchers and Intel customers and supporters gathered at Intel AI DevCon Beijing to collaborate on the advancement of AI and hear the latest updates on Intel’s AI portfolio of technologies, including:

  • Cascade Lake, a future Intel Xeon Scalable processor that will introduce Intel Optane DC persistent memory and a set of new AI features called Intel DL Boost. This embedded AI accelerator is expected to speed deep learning inference workloads, with enhanced image recognition compared to current Intel Xeon Scalable processors. Cascade Lake is targeted for shipments this year.
  • Intel's Vision Accelerator Design Products targeted at AI inference and analytics performance on edge devices come in two forms: one that features an array of Intel Movidius VPUs and one built on the high-performance Intel Arria 10 FPGA. The accelerator solutions build on the OpenVINO toolkit that provides developers with improved neural network performance on a variety of Intel products and helps them further unlock cost-effective, real-time image analysis and intelligence within their IoT devices.
  • Spring Crest is the Intel Nervana Neural Network Processor (NNP) that will be available in the market in 2019. The Intel Nervana NNP family leverages compute characteristics specific for AI deep learning, such as dense matrix multiplies and custom interconnects for parallelism.

Here's Intel's second video, featuring some B-Roll of the compute stick in action:

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Alex Zaharov-Reutt

One of Australia’s best-known technology journalists and consumer tech experts, Alex has appeared in his capacity as technology expert on all of Australia’s free-to-air and pay TV networks on all the major news and current affairs programs, on commercial and public radio, and technology, lifestyle and reality TV shows. Visit Alex at Twitter here.

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