Baidu takes a major leap as an AI player with new chip, Intel alliance


China’s Baidu made two big moves that are going to make it a major player in the artificial intelligence (AI) space: an extremely powerful new chip designed to compete with Google’s Tensor Processing Unit (TPU) and a wide-spanning alliance with Intel.

First, the company introduced the Kunlun, a cloud-to-edge range of AI chips built to accommodate high-performance requirements of a wide variety of AI scenarios. The announcement was made at Baidu Create, a developer show that is starting to look an awful lot like Google I/O in terms of content and sessions.

Kunlun leverages Baidu’s AI ecosystem, which includes AI scenarios such as search ranking and deep learning frameworks, including its open source deep learning framework called PaddlePaddle. Kunlun can be used in everything from autonomous vehicles to data centers.

So far, the company has two processors, the 818-300 training chip and the 818-100 inference chip. The company says Kunlun is 30 times faster than the FPGA-based AI accelerators it introduced in 2011. After seven years, you would expect a leap like that. But Baidu also claimed 260 TFlops of performance at a 100 watt draw, which is well above the 45 TFlops of Google’s TPU.

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