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Movidius is going to revolutionize how your smartphone sees things

When Google first announced its Project Tango initiative for 3D-sensing smartphones and tablets, one of the key components was Movidius’ Myriad 1 vision processing chip. Building on its accomplishments, Movidius today announced a next-generation Myriad 2 chip that offers as much as a 20x boost in efficiency over its predecessor. The company claims to have spent eight years and $60 million developing its technology. Movidius CEO Remi El-Ouazzane said in an interview that Myriad 2 has been specially tuned for power management, delivering “teraflops of performance in less than half a watt.” It will be produced on a 28-nanometer process with 12 “vision-specific vector processors.”

Despite the promise of Google’s Movidius-equipped Project Tango, there are still no depth-sensing, SLR-stomping smartphones on the market. But Movidius thinks that could change soon, thanks to its brand new chip: the Myriad 2 vision processor unit (VPU). “The Myriad 2 is going to provide more than 20x the power efficiency of the Myriad 1, and enable camera features that were not possible before in mobile devices,” CEO Remi El-Ouazzane tells me. If you’ll recall, Tango’s original tech brought faster focus, improved depth of field, near-optical zooming and higher light sensitivity to smartphone cameras (and now, tablets). It also let researchers scan a room in 3D to provide interior navigation, among other cool tricks. However, processing a Teraflop of image data a per second burned a lot of power with the project’s original Myriad 1 chip. The Myriad 2 consumes 500mW of power while processing up 2 Teraflops per second of data — a twentyfold gain in processing efficiency. (For reference, the Snapdragon 805 reportedly uses 3-4 watts.) With 12 “lanes” or cores, it also supports 6 HD cameras at once and can process 600-megapixels per second. With significantly more horsepower and much less battery draw, that means the new VPU could be installed in most smartphones, not just purpose-built devices like the Tango smartphone or tablet. Movidius says that the Myriad 2 could function as a standalone processor in certain devices, or act as a co-processor to a mobile CPU.

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