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Why Intel is seeking Nervana: the chip giant needs help in AI

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Earlier this year, Nervana Systems CEO Naveen Rao was asked what would happen if Intel began attacking the fast-growing market for chips designed specifically for running "deep learning" software. The current market share leader is Nvidia, the leading maker of graphics processing chips used in game consoles and PCs. Since researchers discovered the chips' aptitude for running neural networks, Nvidia has built software to help deep-learning experts use the chips--and it has developed aggressive sales and marketing programs to lock in a big lead. But although graphics chips are much more efficient at running deep-learning software than Intel's conventional CPUs, chips specifically designed for the task should be even more efficient.


Intel Challenges Nvidia in Machine Learning

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At the Intel Developer Forum yesterday, the company even brought out an executive from Chinese cloud giant Baidu to talk about the Xeon Phi, Intel's machine learning chip. Intel executive vice president Diane Bryant mentioned Nervana during yesterday's keynote, but with the deal still not closed, it's understandable that she didn't articulate Intel's plans for the startup. In addition to Baidu's senior vice president Jing Wang, Bryant brought out Slater Victoroff, founder of Indico, a startup using deep learning to analyze text and images. He said he prefers the Intel model, where the host processor also runs the deep learning algorithms.