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Intel acquires machine learning startup Nervana Systems for over $400 million

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Another tech giant has realized the possibilities and potential of artificial intelligence and machine learning in future. Just a couple of days back, Apple invested around $200 million into an AI and machine learning startup, Turi. And now, chip maker Intel has reportedly invested more than $400 million to buy deep learning startup Nervana Systems.

The companies have not disclosed the amount of the deal but a Recode report has pegged the amount at $408 million citing multiple investors.

The two-year-old startup, Nervana System, has quickly made its name among leaders in developing machine learning technologies. Moreover, the company is known to develop systems with a hardware-centric approach — integrating machine learning capabilities directly with hardware into silicon chips instead of a software.

And that seems to have attracted Intel which is looking to boost innovation in order to further cement its position as leading chip maker. Announcing the acquisition, vice president and general manager of the Data Center Group at Intel, Diane Bryant wrote in a blog post,

We will apply Nervana’s software expertise to further optimize the Intel Math Kernel Library and its integration into industry standard frameworks. Nervana’s Engine and silicon expertise will advance Intel’s AI portfolio and enhance the deep learning performance and TCO of our Intel Xeon and Intel Xeon Phi processors.

Clearly, Intel is looking to significantly boost and strengthen its (already popular) chips with help from AI and machine learning. And with its expertise in the field, Nervana Systems can play a significant role in that.

Talking about the current wave of artificial intelligence among major tech companies, Intel VP, Jason Waxman says that it could be larger than the cloud computing wave.

I firmly believe this is not only the next wave but something that will dwarf the last wave.This is a real thing at Baidu; this is a real thing at Google. They are using deep learning techniques. It is not just papers any more,

said Waxman.

Nirvana System was founded by former Qualcomm researcher Naveen Rao in 2014. The startup has raised more than $25 million in funding from investors like Data Collective, DFJ, Allen & Co, Fuel Capital, and Lux Capital.

Through Intel, it plans to rapidly advance its existing capabilities and enter into a wider market. It is developing specialized chips which can transfer data in and out at 2.4 terabytes per second. These chips also have a very low latency rate that is five to 10 times faster than the fastest input-output interfaces for traditional chips.

Waxman said that Intel will initially deploy these Nervana chips in cloud data centers. However, the company has plans to expand the scope to build chips with self-learning capabilities for smart devices such as wearables, self-driving vehicles to further improve IoT systems.

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