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Chip startup plans new mobile processor that enables always-on cameras

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So many of the things we do with smartphones burn through the battery at an alarming rate, and taking pictures is one of the most draining. This limits the utility of having a super-high-resolution image sensor attached to your mobile device. Wearable computing and augmented reality will never be as helpful if you need to manually turn on the camera feed, but that might be about to change. A chip startup called Movidius is working on a chip that could allow mobile devices to keep the camera running at all times.

Camera

Movidius has been working on computer vision for eight years, but has just received a new round of funding to make the proposed chip a reality. It’s a big task, though. Movidius isn’t simply tweaking current chip designs — this is going to be an entirely new architecture as distinct from current ARM chips as ARM is from x86. The company believes it can build a co-processor capable of delivering several teraflops of computing on only a few hundred milliwatts of power.

A few teraflops is a big number. For instance, the top-of-the-line Nvidia Titan GPU is only capable of about 4.5 teraflops. This could just be a theoretical ceiling for the Movidius architecture, with phones needing much less actual power. A scaled down version of the chip may offer more than enough computational muscle to keep the camera going.

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