Huawei’s AI is Forcing Us to Rethink How We See Smartphones

April 6, 2018


An unknown name 10 years ago, Huawei is currently one of the 3 largest smartphone manufacturers in the world, along with Samsung and Apple. What’s the secret? R&D investments that enabled the company to innovate, as well as partnerships with a number of large players in related industries, such as Leica. Slowly but surely, the company has grown into one of the top consumer preferences around the world, with sales showing skyrocketing figures. Huawei’s Mate 10 Pro drew the world’s attention shortly after its launch, at the end of the last year. It instantly became the “star” of the industry thanks to Artificial Intelligence technology embedded in the Huawei Kirin 970 processor, which is able to simultaneously process complex computing while interacting with its surroundings. When the company boldly stated that the Mate 10 Pro was an “intelligent machine”, there were a few raised eyebrows, but, mostly, everybody was eager to test the “world’s 1st smartphone with dedicated Neural network Processor Unit (NPU)”.

Showing the users what AI can do

Until recently, Artificial Intelligence was used for supercomputers only, but once embedded in state-of-the-art smartphones, it is becoming more accessible on a large scale. One of the problems Huawei faced was making users understand how this technology really works. Showing the customers that a dedicated NPU isn’t just a marketing buzz was crucial to the company. So, they started with one of the most used features in a smartphone: the camera.

Kirin 970 chip can supposedly perform image recognition on 2,000 pictures every second. According to Huawei, that processing power is 20 times faster than that of other chips in the market. The Mate 10’s camera can recognize in a flash what’s in front of it (at the moment, the categories are: snow, food, sunset, cat, dog, flower, plant and portrait). Then it can automatically fine-tune the camera’s settings to obtain a perfect shot. At this time, the recognition software is limited to 13 modes, but Huawei says that they will push more modes via cloud to every handset. Although a central point in the presentation, this feature isn’t the only trick.

Recently, Huawei used Mate 10 Pro’s AI to control a driverless Porsche Panamera. The experiment showed how the machine vision can recognize images quickly and accurately, reacting accordingly.

What AI can really do for a smartphone

Real-time translation just got leveled up. The Translate app, optimized in partnership with Microsoft, works flawlessly and much faster than its competitors. One must simply point the device at a newspaper article, a menu or a street sign and take a picture. The Huawei Mate 10 Pro will automatically detect the text language, translate it and overlay the translation on top of the image, combining augmented reality and AI. This cool feature is lightning fast and, most importantly, doesn’t require an Internet connection.

The Mate 10 can learn its users’ habits and provide a better user experience. The system can pre-allocate power to favorite apps. This leads to faster start-up time, less lags, and extended battery life.

The device will age better and get smarter. According to Huawei, the AI chip ensures that the device will run as fast as new even after two years. Its features are not limited to what Huawei pre-programmed. App developers can use the Kirin processor’s application programming interface (API) or any other machine learning framework to “teach” the phone to handle other features.

Artificial Intelligence and decision making: life improvement or a threat to our creativity?

Drawing a parallel to artificial intelligence, Huawei published a study showing the true extent of subconscious decisions made by the human brain: approximately 35,000 decisions are made each day by the human brain although, on average, respondents believe they only make around 111. According to Huawei, AI will free our minds from mundane decisions, or from decisions we’re not equipped to make, and open us up to concentrate on what’s important at that time.

“Think of it like this: When you cross the road, you look to the right. We don’t think, we just do it. This is great at home, but potentially very dangerous if you’re visiting somewhere that drives on the opposite side of the road. That’s where artificial intelligence comes in. AI thinks, when our minds are being lazy”, said Huawei’s Global Brand Management Director David-Dohyung Kim, at a recent event in London.

Huawei’s Chief Marketing Officer, Andrew Garrihy, added: “We can forget things, because AI will remember for us, and then go on to make an even better decision when it does. It could unlock human potential.”

Large companies are investing heavily in Artificial Intelligence, and all the very popular services we use – from Google, Microsoft or Facebook, have such technologies behind them. Setting aside the practical benefits, such as speed, better photos or improved battery life, the AI revolution is forcing us to rethink how we see smartphones.