What good are AI-powered processors without apps that take full advantage of them? That seems to be the question Intel has been asking itself lately. The company just announced a new initiative, the AI PC Acceleration Program, which is meant to help developers create new AI-powered features that take advantage of Intel’s upcoming Core Ultra mobile chips.
Those processors, which are due to arrived on December 14th, are notable for being the company’s first to include a neural processing unit (NPU). Just like how a GPU speeds up gaming tasks, an NPU accelerates AI workloads, like the background blur feature in Windows 11’s video chat Studio Effects. An NPU alone won’t make people rush out to buy new notebooks, though. What Intel needs are compelling reasons for people to want AI acceleration.
Enter the AI PC Acceleration Program, which so far includes more than 100 software vendors and over 300 AI-powered features, according to Intel. These aren’t just no-name developers either: Current participants include Audacity, Adobe, BlackMagic, Webex and Zoom. As part of the program, Intel connects developers with AI toolkits like OpenVINO, design resources, and marketing help. This is uncharted territory for most software makers, after all — Intel’s assistance could help them to deliver useful AI features more quickly.
“We at Audacity are thrilled to be partnering with Intel to help bring powerful, open and, most importantly, free AI tools to a mass audience of AI PC users,” Martin Keary, Audacity’s head of product, said in a statement. “With time, we expect these kinds of initiatives to produce a new kind of creative environment for musicians, podcasters and audiophiles – a worthy successor to the traditional audio tools that have typified the last 20 years.”
This isn’t the first time Intel has tried to push developers to build new AI features, Robert Hallock, Intel’s senior director of client technology and performance marketing, told Engadget. It runs similar initiatives for server and datacenters, which have led to around 1,000 examples of AI-enabled software. Developers will be able to sign up for the AI PC Acceleration Program online, and Intel will then determine there eligibility and the resources they’ll require.
Hallock notes that the fruit of Intel’s AI push won’t just be limited to the company’s NPUs either—they should also run on AI hardware from AMD and Apple without much extra effort. Looking ahead, he expects NPUs to be a common component in all PC processors, making them something developers can rely on even more. Developers will still target CPUs for latency-sensitive work, while games and 3D rendering will go straight for GPU power. But the NPU will be the go-to solution for long-running, power-intensive AI tasks because it’s far more efficient than GPUs and CPUs.
“In the quest for performance per Watt, having this third accelerator makes a big difference,” Hallock said. “It extends battery life, it allows GPU offloads. That’s one of the key benefits.”