This year may be the year of embedded AI chips for smartphones, as well as other small Internet of Things (IoT) devices, drones, robots, or surveillance cameras. Chinese fabless seminconductor company Rockchip seems to want to catch this trend early with the launch of its AI-focused chip, the RK3399Pro. The chip promises an AI performance of up to 2.4 trillion operations per second (TOPS).
RK3399Pro System-on-a-Chip (SoC)
The RK3399Pro uses a dual-core Cortex-A72 CPU and a quad-core Cortex-A53 CPU in a big.Little configuration, as well as a Mali-T860 GPU. It also comes with a dual type-C interface, and it supports a dual Image Signaling Processor (ISP), 4096x2160 display output, as well as an 8-channel digital microphone arrays input.
Software support includes OpenGL ES 1.x/2.x/3.1/3.2, Vulkan 1.0, OpenCL 1.1/1.2, RenderScript, and more.
In addition to the CPU and the GPU, the chip comes with a Neural Processing Unit (NPU), which promises a performance of 2.4 TOPS.
The NPU’s performance falls right between the performance of Huawei’s Kirin 970 AI processor (1.9 TOPS) and Google’s Pixel Visual Core (3 TOPS). It’s also about four times faster than what Apple’s own Neural Engine can achieve (0.6 TOPS).
The RK3399Pro NPU supports OpenVX, TensorFlow Lite, Android’s Neural Network API (NNAPI), as well as the more full-featured Caffe and TensorFlow machine learning framework frameworks. The chip can do both 8-bit and 16-bit computing.
Rockchip will provide developers with a reference design and SDK to get started on their RK3399Pro-based projects. The company has typically targeted the budget embedded chip market, so despite the already quite impressive NPU performance, the RK3399Pro will likely target lower-cost devices. Things seem to be moving fast in the AI chip market, so at the high-end we may see even higher embedded AI performance this year.
"The age of AI has come. As a global SoC manufacturer in China, we have the market layout of AI for many years,” said Chen Feng, the Global Vice President of Rockchip.“RK3399Pro is Rockchip's first processor which integrates AI hardware. Its platform can be rapid MP for commercial. With super 2.4TOPs performance, low power consumption and abundant interfaces, this product is applicable to various AI application fields such as intelligent drive, image recognition, security monitoring, drones and voice recognition,” he added.