Skip to Content
Uncategorized

Alibaba is developing its own AI chips, too

April 20, 2018

The Chinese e-commerce giant will join a raft of other tech firms in designing its own processors tailored to in-house machine-learnings tasks. It’s another sign of China’s increasing desire to use its own chips.

The news: Alibaba announced that it’s building a chip called Ali-NPU—for “neural processing unit”—designed to handle AI tasks like image and video analysis. The firm says its performance will be 10 times that of a CPU or GPU performing the same task. The project is led by Alibaba’s R&D arm, DAMO Academy. The firm also announced that it has acquired a Hangzhou-based CPU designer called C-SKY.

What it’s for: The chips will be part of Alibaba’s ambitious plan to deliver AI through cloud computing and IoT devices. It’s already using AI to improve online shopping and process city data. Using in-house chips will help it do things faster and more cheaply.

Joining a long list: In America, Google, Apple, and even Facebook are designing their own AI chips, and so are some startups. There’s also been a recent push by other Chinese firms and researchers to do the same.

Why it matters: China spends over $200 billion a year importing integrated-circuit chips, mostly from the US. As trade tensions simmer between the nations, the prospect of using homegrown chips looks ever more appealing to China’s government and businesses. The news is another sign of China’s early success in growing its semiconductor industry—a key part of the government’s Made in China 2025 policy.

Keep Reading

Most Popular

Here’s how a Twitter engineer says it will break in the coming weeks

One insider says the company’s current staffing isn’t able to sustain the platform.

Technology that lets us “speak” to our dead relatives has arrived. Are we ready?

Digital clones of the people we love could forever change how we grieve.

How to befriend a crow

I watched a bunch of crows on TikTok and now I'm trying to connect with some local birds.

Starlink signals can be reverse-engineered to work like GPS—whether SpaceX likes it or not

Elon said no thanks to using his mega-constellation for navigation. Researchers went ahead anyway.

Stay connected

Illustration by Rose Wong

Get the latest updates from
MIT Technology Review

Discover special offers, top stories, upcoming events, and more.

Thank you for submitting your email!

Explore more newsletters

It looks like something went wrong.

We’re having trouble saving your preferences. Try refreshing this page and updating them one more time. If you continue to get this message, reach out to us at customer-service@technologyreview.com with a list of newsletters you’d like to receive.