Get used to AI in your devices. Credit: Bing Image Creator

AI Inside

Kim Bellard

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Well: 2024. I’m excited about the Paris Olympics, but otherwise I’d be just as happy to sleep through all the nonsense that the November elections will bring. In any event, I might as well start out talking about one of the hottest topics of 2023 that will get even moreso in 2024: AI.

In particular, I want to look at what is being billed as the “AI PC.”

Most of us have come to know about ChatGPT. Google has Bard (plus DeepMind’s Gemini), Microsoft is building AI into Bing and its other products, Meta released an open source AI, and Apple is building its AI framework. There is a plethora of others. You probably have used “AI assistants” like Alexa or Siri.

What most of the large language model (LLM) versions of AI have in common is that they are cloud-based. What AI PCs offer to do is to take AI down to your own hardware, not dissimilar to how PCs took mainframe computing down to your desktop.

As The Wall Street Journal tech gurus write in their 2024 predictions in their 2024 predictions:

In 2024, every major manufacturer is aiming to give you access to AI on your devices, quickly and easily, even when they’re not connected to the internet, which current technology requires. Welcome to the age of the AI PC. (And, yes, the AI Mac.)

What’s coming is what engineers call “on-device AI.” Like our smartphones, our laptops will gain the ability to do the specialized computing required to perform AI-boosted tasks without connecting to the cloud. They will be able to understand our speech, search and summarize information, even generate images and text, all without the slow and costly round trip to a tech company’s server.

The chip companies are ready. Intel just announced their new AI PC chip. It believes that its new Intel® Core™ Ultra processor will change PCs forever: “Now, AI is for everyone.” If you’re used to thinking about CPU and GPU, now you’ll have to think about “NPU” — neural processing units.

Intel promises: “With AI-acceleration built into every Intel® Core™ Ultra processor, you now have access to a variety of experiences — enhanced collaboration, productivity, and creativity — right at your desktop.” It further claims it is working with over 100 developers, and expects those developers to offer over 300 “AI-accelerated features” in 2024.

Rival AMD has also released its own AI chips. “We continue to deliver high performance and power-efficient NPUs with Ryzen AI technology to reimagine the PC,” said Jack Huynh, SVP and GM of AMD computing and graphics business. “The increased AI capabilities of the 8040 series will now handle larger models to enable the next phase of AI user experiences.”

And, of course, AI chip powerhouse Nvidia isn’t sitting idly in the AI PC race. It says that already: “For GeForce RTX users, AI is now running on your PC. It’s personal, enhancing every keystroke, every frame and every moment.”

Nvidia sees four advantages to AI PCs:

· Availability: Whether a gamer or a researcher, everyone needs tools — from games to sophisticated AI models used by wildlife researchers in the field — that can function even when offline.

· Speed: Some applications need instantaneous results. Cloud latency doesn’t always cut it.

· Data size: Uploading and downloading large datasets from the cloud can be inefficient and cumbersome.

· Privacy: Whether you’re a Fortune 500 company or just editing family photos and videos, we all have data we want to keep close to home.

The PC manufacturers are getting ready. DigitalTrends’ Fionna Agomuoh spoke to multiple Lenovo executives, who are all-in on AI PCs. “Put simply,” she writes. “Lenovo sees the “AI PC” as a PC where AI is integrated at every level of the system, including both software and hardware.” Lenovo Executive Vice President of Intelligent Devices Group, Luca Rossi, cited an example with gaming: “We apply certain AI techniques to improve the gaming experience. By making the machine understand what kind of usage model you’re going to do and then a machine fine tunes, the speed, the temperature, etc.”

AMD’s Jason Banta believes “the AI PC will be the next technological revolution since the graphical interface,” which is a pretty startling statement. He elaborated:

Prior to this, you kind of just typed commands. It wasn’t quite as intuitive. You saw the graphical interface with the mouse, and it really changed the way you interacted the productivity. How you got things done, how it felt. I think AI PC is going to be that powerful if not more powerful.

Mr. Banta also believes that having AI built into the PC will make AI cheaper, more secure, and more private.

HP’s CEO Enrique Lores told CNBC in November that AI capabilities will spur PC sales: “we think this is going to double the growth of the PC category starting next year.” Technology research form Canalys predicts 60% of PCs shipped in 2027 will be AI-capable. IDC analysts are similarly bullish, saying: “The integration of AI capabilities into PCs is expected to serve as a catalyst for upgrades, hitting shelves in 2024.”

Windows Central reports that Microsoft plans to release Surface Pro 10 as its first AI PC. Surface Laptop 6 may also feature AI capabilities, although what exactly those capabilities are for either device remain unclear.

And, yes, when we say “AI PC,” we’ll also be seeing AI Mac. “Apple may not wax eloquent about AI but it knows very well that the use cases for this technology are booming and that the development work will require unprecedented computing power,” Dipanjan Chatterjee, an analyst at Forrester, told CNN. “That’s a huge emerging opportunity, and Apple wants a piece of that pie.”

The people who aren’t quite ready are us.

Moral of the story: in the not-too-distant future, saying “AI PC” will be redundant. AI capabilities will be built-in, assumed — and not just in your PC but also your phone, your watch, your car, all of your devices. Some of those capabilities will be local, some may be boosted by nearby networked devices, others will rely on the cloud.

I’ll be interested in how any learning that a local AI gains is passed along to other versions, and vice-versa. E.g., my health devices will know things about how my health is impacted by various treatments, and some of those should be pooled with other patient data for broader meaning.

Just like 2023, AI is going to continue to surprise and impress us in 2024.

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Kim Bellard

Curious about many things, some of which I write about — usually health care, innovation, technology, or public policy. Never stop asking “why” or “why not”!