Apple teased AI improvements, including the M4’s neural engine, at its iPad event

3 min read
Apple teased AI improvements, including the M4's neural engine, at its iPad event

Apple isn’t yet ready to unveil its broader AI strategy — it’s saving that for its Worldwide Developer Conference in June — but the tech giant did make sure to mention AI technologies across its device lineup at its iPad event on Tuesday. The company touted a new iPad Air as “an incredibly powerful device for AI;” its AI-powered features like visual lookup, subject lift and live text capture, among others; and, of course, its upgraded M4 chip, which features a neural engine that’s “dedicated to the acceleration of AI workloads.”

Tuesday’s theme focused on the new hardware devices themselves — devices like new iPads and an updated Apple Pencil — not on the AI advances Apple is making under the hood. But Apple made sure to note anytime its hardware advances could also help power AI technologies.

For instance, the iPad Air’s update, which now includes the M2 with a faster CPU, GPU and neural engine, was described as offering “powerful machine learning features,” like visual lookup, which can identify objects in photos; an AI-powered tool that can lift out a photo’s subject; and live text capture, which can copy, share, look up and translate text within the camera frame.

When Apple didn’t have its own AI tech to point to, it referenced third parties. While talking about the iPad Air, for example, Apple gave a shout-out to Pixelmator’s Photomator, which uses AI models trained on over 20 million professional images to improve photos with a single click.

Meanwhile, the iPad Pro jumped from being powered by the M2 to the new M4, the latest generation of Apple silicone, with a new CPU, next-gen GPU, and next-generation ML accelerators that Apple claims will deliver up to 50% faster performance than the M2. Of course, the company also played up the chip’s neural engine, or NPU, which is “dedicated to the acceleration of AI workloads.”

“Now while the chip industry is just starting to add NPUs to some of their processors, we’ve been including our industry-leading neural engine in our chip for years,” said John Ternus,  Apple SVP, Hardware Engineering, during the event.

Consumers, however, are waiting to see what sort of use cases are in store for these hardware advances — and that’s something Apple didn’t yet go into detail about, despite having the opportunity to tease an iPadOS release with new AI features or other developer-focused announcements.

Instead, Apple ran through iPadOS’ existing features, like multitasking view Stage Manager and a display mode for creatives, dubbed Reference Mode.

Still, the company hinted that improved AI capabilities would soon be in the hands of iPadOS app developers, noting that the operating system software offers advanced frameworks, like CoreML, and that developers would be able to tap into its neural engine to deliver “powerful AI features right on device.”

In other apps, like Logic Pro, Apple added new AI-powered session players like a bass and keyboard player who can join a performance alongside the drummer already available. These AI-driven backing band members can also respond to feedback provided in the app, Apple said. The company mentioned, too, a machine learning-backed Logic Pro plug-in, ChromaGlow, for adding warmth to tracks.

Image Credits: Apple

Apple made note of how AI could solve problems in areas like photography, like when trying to scan documents using a device’s camera.

“We’ve all had the experience of trying to scan a document in certain lighting conditions where it’s hard to avoid casting a shadow,” Ternus said. “The new Pro solves this problem. It uses AI to automatically detect documents like forms and receipts. If shadows are in the way it instantly takes multiple photos with the new adaptive flash. The frames are stitched together and the result is a dramatically better scan.”

Though none of the mentions of AI stood out as being over-the-top breakthroughs, they suggested that Apple’s style would be to note AI improvements as it related to upgrading the consumer experience of using its devices.

We expect to hear a lot more about Apple’s AI plans at WWDC, where the company may even announce an AI-powered Siri or partnership with an AI provider like Google or OpenAI, rumors suggest.


Read more about Apple's 2024 iPad Event

Source link