Microsoft's HoloLens AI chip could make its way to other devices

HoloLens and Microsoft Windows logo
HoloLens and Microsoft Windows logo (Image credit: Windows Central)

Microsoft recently revealed that the next version of its HoloLens headset will pack its own dedicated AI chip. However, it sounds like the company may have bigger plans for its custom chipset, including an eventual expansion to other devices.

In an interview with CNBC, Panos Panay, Microsoft's corporate vice president of devices, confirmed that the company is still hard at work on the chipset for HoloLens. When pressed on whether he expects the chipset to eventually spread across Microsoft's device portfolio, Panay answered in the affirmative. Expanding further, Panay said its AI chip could also be licensed out to partners.

"I think one of the most important things that we do in Surface and in our chip development is... the opportunity to make sure we get the technology created within Surface and then proliferate it with our partners and give everybody the opportunity to use it," said Panay.

Microsoft explained the goal of an AI chip in an eventual HoloLens 2 will be to add dedicated horsepower for complex tasks like image and voice recognition. That has the potential to open up HoloLens to some unique capabilities and faster processing without having to send data off to the cloud to be processed.

Following HoloLens, we could eventually see these capabilities added to other hardware, including PCs built by Microsoft and partners like Dell and HP. It's also interesting that HoloLens is operating as a sort of testing ground for this particular venture. It will be interesting to see what other types of features might eventually spread from HoloLens to other parts of Microsoft's hardware lineup.

Dan Thorp-Lancaster

Dan Thorp-Lancaster is the former Editor-in-Chief of Windows Central. He began working with Windows Central, Android Central, and iMore as a news writer in 2014 and is obsessed with tech of all sorts. You can follow Dan on Twitter @DthorpL and Instagram @heyitsdtl

  • Remember the Microsoft Band? It was designed as a platform to license to partners and give everybody the opportunity to use it. Microsoft has a huge uphill battle after Kinect, Groove, Band, Kin, and Zune.
  • Man, to mention Kin, and how it affects MS in 2017, is just cliché.
    Cancelling these products don't really effect MS's future much, because the vast majority of the market never really was that reliant on them in the first place. No viable mobile platform in 2017?... None of that stuff currently matters, and definitely won't matter in the future.... The only thing that does matter is what MS does from this point on... As the roadmap stands, MS doesn't currently have any products that are "failing", so they will be fine if they maintain that, and continue to bring relatively successful products to market. MS is in no uphill battle for anything, not even UWP apps. They were with WP/WM, but that was yesterday, and UWP apps will come slowly, and when some other things are in place.
    If anyone was to disagree with me about MS not being in an uphill battle I would ask "Who are they in an uphill battle against? Against what? Compared to what? In the same market as what?"""...... As much as I hate to admit it, Satya has removed the fat, and put MS in a position of contempt with pretty much all their current products, and services. I'm disappointed about WP, and Groove, but that doesn't define the company. I would say to anyone not to panic, and to focus on the fact that Panos, and his team, are working on multiple projects that could be of potential interest to consumers. In my eyes that's pretty exciting.
  • I found it pretty telling that Panos didn't do a phone demo when he was refering to his 'work flow'. Anyone else would have used an ios or android phone. You can see his passion for the hardware he and his team have worked on and designed. We have Lumia 950/XL launch for comparison. I am hoping we see some form of wearable too as the andromeda o/s is modular by design. If anyone that can pull it off, it's the surface team. Also the surface hub, uses the windows phone/mobile ux lol!
  • Yepers!!!
  • I can (and have) go through a long list of products that Google has discontinued. It even has become a thing - "Spring Cleaning." Google goes through, shuts down a bunch of failing services, shuts down those products they bought over the past year, and then do not offer any alternative. And when they do offer an alternative they will shut it down and start on a new one. How many social networks has Google had? Apple has done the same. How many times have they shut down their personal services, only to release a new one? MobileMe, iCloud, .Mac, iTools, every time abandoning their users between changes, losing email, losing domain names, and so on. I was just reading an article on a Apple fansite where someone was trying to buy an adapter for Apple's HiFi, and the Apple employee got into an argument with the customer that Apple never created such a thing. THeir original Bluetooth earbuds were quietly end of lifed, and broken ones never fixed. iPods discontinued. How many times has Apple created, shut down, and created a new music social service? And when Apple does not shut down products, they keep selling the same old ones for years without updating them or decreasing the price. They are still selling 4 generation old MacBook airs, 3 generation old iPad Mini, a Mac mini that has not been updated in 3 years, and a Mac Pro that really has not been updated in 4 years. Microsoft is hated for not shipping a USB-C device, but Apple has devices that have not been updated to USB 3, and that is just A-OK. The competition shuts down a consumer product, and it is great because it is trimming the fat, allowing the company to focus on their core products. Microsoft discontinues a product, they don't care about the customer, it is time to give up on the company and move to another company where we can cheer shutting down consumer products.
  • I agree
  • Xiaomi ? :)
  • After the string of cancelled products, I have a hard time getting excited about anything from Microsoft.
  • Please go to Google then, where they will shut down everything you use during their Spring Cleaning cycle. I am sure you will be just fine with that. Or maybe you can move to Apple, it is about time for them to scrap iCloud, lose all your data, lock you out of your account, and start a new product.
  • I would like to believe hololens is going somewhere. But I find the longterm appeal of 3D headsets and experience for mainstream consumers controversial. I can understand further investing the current 3D built in software to cater for 3D printing technologies. But otherwise I think I wouldn't want hololens software on my windows 10. I think they should make a seperate skew for destined markets and businesses. There are more relevant day to day software solutions that need to come to windows 10, that are not adressed by hololens.
  • Hmm I disagree. AR/VR/MR is the direction things are going, I think making it a separate thing would make it harder for MS to compete. The good user experience isn't quite there yet because tech needs to get a little better, but that will come. Plus, making it a separate skew would go against MS's goal of having one OS.
  • I hope they make a new "lens"  that is not the size of a salad bowl.   A sleek pair of glasses the size of reading glasses would be in my posession on release day.   Come on Panos.  Get the lead out!
  • I'm more curious about what other kinds of processor development they're thinking about now that they've got this experience with Hololens under their belt. At some point do we see them ramp up their custom silicon development a la Apple?
  • I doubt it.  I think it's more partner with intel etc to create chips for the lens.
  • @Real0395
    I agree one OS would be the best. But microsoft has already shown they want to diversify their windows portfolio, with at least 3 consumer skews. Then they have the windows 10S skew, windows 10 server and windows 10 for business skews and hololens and xbox. They're already micromanaging the OS itself. I would think it matters less now that microsoft is actively differentiating windows. From and end user perspective this is horrible and confusing. But a development team dedicated to windows 10 VR/AR might help boost development, instead of microsoft, as now having to make a lot of compromises, with many aspects of windows 10 currently halfbaked and not getting realistically done, which is unfortuante.