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How is AI Used in Smartphones?

How is AI Used in Smartphones?
  • On April 1, 2019

The most recognizable artificial intelligence you might be aware of with your smartphone is digital assistants. These use machine learning to improve their responses to you based on information in their databases while adapting responses for better personalization.

With the increasing use of Amazon Alexa or Google’s Assistant, AI in smartphones is beginning to make our digital lives easier. Even basic search services like Google and Bing use AI to generate more accurate answers to questions by interpreting the intent behind your questions based on previous searches performed.

Where else is artificial intelligence found in smartphones today? Let’s take a look.

Optimized Processors with AI

Not everyone has noticed yet, but some smartphone processors – the brain of the phone – now use AI. Dubbed a neural processing unit, or an AI engine, they’re designed to work quicker with image data that alters frequently. In other words, dealing with a series of quick AI-driven decisions has been sped up to match the kind of real-time processing now needed during regular use.

The iPhone XS with its A12 chip and the embattled Huawei with its latest Mate 20 Pro model fitted with their in-house Kirin 980 processor are two specific phone models. Also, Qualcomm, a popular processor producer for premium-end mobile devices, released their Snapdragon 845 chipset with some AI-inspired modifications too.

In Qualcomm’s case, a camera is more responsive in phones with a Snapdragon 845, which helps with facial recognition when taking a photo and autofocusing on the most important thing in a framed shot.

Camera Usage with an AI Assist

Phones are being marketed now by promoting their AI processors. Huawei began that trend with the release of their Mate 10 model. The neural AI Kirin 970 processor led the way with AI-designed features to make some phone functionalities perform better.

The use of AI is perhaps the most obvious for phone users. Cameras built into phones with AI-enabled chipsets benefit from a more intelligent camera app. For instance, the Huawei Mate 10 is capable of spotting up to 13 different popular framed scenes and optimizing for them. These include a skyline, pet pictures of your cat or dog Fido, snowy winter scenes, and even snapshots of text. Auto modes can self-identify what’s being viewed through the camera lens with the phone swapping to the most relevant mode for better composition, exposure and lighting built-in.

Object recognition within a view that the lens is currently capturing picks out people and other items within a live shot. This makes it possible to tag that section of the image or blur out the background to make the person more prominent, for instance.

Better Low-Light Shots

Shooting in low light or night shots is very different to the daytime. Digital cameras are notoriously bad night or low light shooters because digital lenses typically require an overly bright light source to capture good illumination in the final image.

One of the issues with night shooting is the need for a long exposure time to get a decent still image. This forces you to hold your phone steady for longer. Due to jerkiness, an accidentally blurred image often results.

Huawei tried a different approach with their Mate 20 Pro and P20 Pro smartphone models. They simulate a longer exposure by taking multiple photos at various exposures. They then merge the images together to create a longer exposure.

The AI comes into it by stitching a bunch of images together and dealing with any blurring, hand shakiness, light changes and object movement between shots. The downside is that getting that single images can take at least 5 seconds to render. When taking a photo of friends, everyone has to hold steady for an unnatural amount of time, however, the photos come out vastly better than a standard nighttime photo.

AI Speaking for You with Google Duplex

For anyone interested in electrical engineering, the creation of Google Duplex is fascinating. Google is working on releasing an upgrade to their Google Assistant where its Duplex can make calls on your behalf. In testing, it’s been convincing enough that the people on the other end thought it was a real person calling and the search giant was forced to confirm on the call that it was an AI calling.

These kinds of fascinating developments are frequently crossing over into the realm of what was once Sci-Fi. It’s encouraging many people to go into electrical engineering because the hardware drives the software. Studying for an online masters degree in electrical engineering is one such route to understand the hardware behind modern smartphones and later work in this industry. State-of-the-art features on the cutting-edge keeps this industry interesting compared to working as an accountant!

Digital Assistants & Macros

The digital assistant services like Alexa, Siri and Google Assistant aren’t thought of as AI specifically, but they use plenty of it when returning verbal answers to questions. The creators don’t mention AI because they want the assistants to seem as human-like as possible to make you comfortable using them.

These tools are data-driven. For instance, Google Assist remembers all of your Google searches, your Android usage, any items listed in Google Calendar and can even reads your Gmail inbox.

Now there’s a move to use macros to cut down on the usage of AI to avoid it becoming too CPU intensive. The popularity of the IFTTT mobile app to perform checks and trigger automated actions is one such example of this. Automation with a little help of AI reduces the number of mundane tasks to perform. If you’re not always using automation apps to make your life easier, you probably will be soon.

Not all aspects of AI are bad or even job threatening. The use of artificial intelligence, neural networks and automated task handling can actually make life more manageable as we’re expected to get more done in less time. Or, it ensures our free time is our own and less filled with boring tasks. And if you just want to take better photos in varied light conditions to make your selfies look better than ever, well there’s a phone for that now too.