Chips are to computing what neurons are to our body: basic functional units whose main task is to receive, process and transmit information. Their development determines if applications can become more sophisticated, handle artificial intelligence, process increasing amounts of data and reproduce clearer, more realistic images and sounds. Each advance in these integrated circuits drives the rest of the industry to develop new capabilities for smartphones, cars, household appliances, computers and more.
This month Qualcomm unveiled its newest chipset, the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2, designed to use artificial intelligence, increase performance fourfold and reduce energy consumption by up to 60%. These are the three basic fields that are also being developed by other companies such as Intel, Samsung, Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing (TSMC) and Apple – which in June began to develop its own family of chips for the Mac, the M2. Here are some of the developments brought by Qualcomm’s latest advances:
The processor. Cristiano Amon, president of Qualcomm, believes that the next five years will be oriented towards technological convergence: providing other devices with smartphone capabilities while giving phones some of the benefits of computers and consoles. The Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 platform was developed with this in mind and, starting next year, companies such as Samsung, Honor, OnePlus, Sony, Xiaomi and Motorola will make it part of their high-end devices. Its specs are: a 4-nanometer processor (more efficient and capable); a main core with a maximum frequency of 3.2 GHz, three of 2.8 and four of 2, and support for 5G networks. Also, downloads of 10 Gigabits per second and peak performance with Wi-Fi 7, the latest wireless technology. Chris Patrick, vice president of the company, says that it offers innovative artificial intelligence, unparalleled connectivity and professional quality games.
Glasses, which aspire to dethrone the watch. Amon is convinced that glasses will become the next big wearable. They are conventional-looking glasses that will place all mobile applications a few millimeters from your eyes. Things like street directions, a video call, your latest messages, information related to what you see, a movie or the metaverse will be displayed on the lenses. Amon believes that they will start to become available in the next “five to 10 years.” From a technological point of view, he points out, it is absolutely feasible; it is only a matter of time.
The foundation for this near future is the Snapdragon AR2 Gen 1, a multi-chip architecture that includes an augmented reality processor on one temple, an augmented reality coprocessor in the middle of the frame and a connectivity system that uses FastConnect 7800 on the other temple . With this distribution of elements, up to nine cameras can be used, the performance of artificial intelligence can increase 2.5 times, power consumption can decrease by 50% and, most importantly, the entire device can fit in a conventional frame.
Language. The artificial intelligence engine has paved the way for Snapdragon Smart, a natural language processing system that facilitates simultaneous translation into several languages, and Sensing Hub, which allows users to give increasingly complex commands to voice assistants, so “find a restaurant” or “find a hotel near me” can become “locate a place with Chinese food for less than $20 that’s less than 10 minutes away” or “a four-star hotel with a gym, babysitting service and that’s close to the beach, for less than $200 a night.”
Instant Photoshop. Adobe is working with Qualcomm in the development of Snapdragon Sight, a platform that aims to bring the professional photography experience to smartphone cameras using real-time semantic segmentation for photos and videos. Just like Photoshop, this feature identifies the different layers of an image, such as faces, features, hair, clothing, sky or background, to optimize them with artificial intelligence as the image is being taken. Companies such as Sony or Samsung also apply the Qualcomm platform to their image sensors to achieve shots of up to 200 megapixels and high-definition videos in 8K resolution.
Gaming. Faster execution (25%), more realism and lower consumption (40%) are the keys to Snapdragon Elite Gaming, with which developers can create more realistic and immersive graphics with ray tracing for mobile gaming without draining the battery. The game developer Niantic has already announced that it will incorporate this technology.
Connection. The new processing platform is linked to 5G connectivity and Wi-Fi 7, the latest generation of wireless connection, thanks to the X70 modem, to gain in speed, capacity, coverage, latency and energy efficiency. It also doubles the Bluetooth connection range and allows for the simultaneous use of two SIM cards.
Sound. Another goal of the new developments is to improve the experience of music, calls, video and gaming applications. The idea is to not only improve clarity and immersive capacity, but to use artificial intelligence to discriminate and cancel sounds, for example, all external noises during a conversation.
Computers. Technological convergence does not only mean advances for smartphones; the goal is to bring mobile technology to all devices, especially laptops, and machinery, such as cars. In this sense, the collaboration between Qualcomm and Microsoft will allow the incorporation of artificial intelligence acceleration systems to Windows 11, not only to improve image and sound applications (Windows Studio Effects Voice Focus and Background Blur) but, above all, to take advantage of the advances in artificial intelligence to improve the performance and energy efficiency of CPUs (central processing units) and GPUs (graphics processing units).