Today, Qualcomm announced that it's working on the next-generation Snapdragon 820 SoC that will include the company's own custom ARMv8 CPU core, named Kryo, and a brand-new cognitive platform called Zeroth. The company also said that the chip will be built on a "cutting edge" FinFET process.
Previously, Kryo was leaked under the codename "Taipan" and as being built on a 14nm process, which implied Qualcomm would use Samsung's process technology, because TSMC will only have a 16nm FinFET process node.
Kryo will be Qualcomm's first custom CPU core since it built Krait, which has been in use since 2012. It's generally considered that Qualcomm, as well as other mobile chip makers, were caught off-guard when Apple announced a new custom ARMv8-based CPU core in 2013, a full year before anyone expected ARMv8 chips to start appearing.
Chances are that Qualcomm also didn't believe it needed to build a 64-bit chip until the end of 2015 or early 2016. But after seeing Apple launch a 64-bit CPU so early, Qualcomm may have reconsidered its position on 64-bit chips and licensed the big.Little Cortex-A53/Cortex-A57 CPU IP from ARM in order to build the Snapdragon 810.
Qualcomm didn't give too many details about its Kryo CPU core today. However, it should be sampled to manufacturers in the second half of the year, which likely means we won't see the Snapdragon 820 on the market until early 2016.
Another announcement Qualcomm made about the Snapdragon 820 was in relation to the Zeroth cognitive computing platform. For the past several years, Qualcomm has been working on Neural Processing Units (NPUs), as the company calls them, which are processors that mimic human learning.
"The premium mobile experiences of the future will extend beyond traditional features and functionality and be defined by devices that have the ability to learn and adapt to the needs of the user, through fully harnessing the growing levels of compute, multimedia and connectivity in our mobile devices," said Cristiano Amon, executive vice president of Qualcomm Technologies and co-president of QCT. "At MWC 2015 we'll take the first steps towards realizing this vision with the Zeroth platform, and set the stage for a new level of intelligence and personalization for mobile devices. Zeroth intelligence will scale across a wide range of implementations from automobiles, wearables, smartphones and client computing and have a learned personalization that has the ability to transfer across devices and as a consumer upgrade to the next generation."
The idea is to get artificial intelligence to learn as a human would, through positive reinforcement. Back in 2013, Qualcomm envisioned that these NPUs will one day be part of a regular SoC, just like a CPU or a GPU. The Snapdragon 820 will be the first chip to make that vision a reality.
Qualcomm said that the Zeroth platform could be used for things such as more advanced behavioral-based authentication, recognizing objects in photos, more accurate handwriting, increased optimization for LTE connectivity, improved speech and audio recognition, and more.