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Intel acquires AI start-up run by Indian-origin entrepreneur

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San Francisco: Announcing a big foray into the world of artificial intelligence (AI), the chip giant Intel has acquired San Diego, California-based deep learning start-up Nervana Systems run by an Indian-origin entrepreneur.

Coming ahead of the Intel Developer Forum next week, the acquisition gives Intel a definitive head start towards advanced data analytics, computer vision, natural language processing and machine learning.

Although the financial details were not disclosed, according to a Re/Code report, the software giant is paying more than $400 million to buy Nervana led by former Qualcomm researcher Naveen Rao.

“We will apply Nervana’s software expertise to further optimise the Intel Math Kernel Library and its integration into industry standard frameworks,” Diane Bryant, Executive Vice President of Data Center Group at Intel, said in a statement on Wednesday.

“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,” she explained.

Intel processors power nearly 97 per cent of servers deployed to support machine learning workloads today.

“Nervana’s IP and expertise in accelerating deep learning algorithms will expand Intel’s capabilities in the field of AI,” Bryant added.

The Intel Xeon processor E5 family is the most widely deployed processor for deep learning inference and the recently launched Intel Xeon Phi processor delivers the scalable performance needed for deep learning training.

“While less than 10 per cent of servers worldwide were deployed in support of machine learning last year, the capabilities and insights it enables makes machine learning the fastest growing form of AI,” the Intel executive said.

“We will continue to invest in leading edge technologies that complement and enhance Intel’s AI portfolio,” she added.

Nervana recently raised $25 million in venture funding and also has a contract to work with In-Q-tel, the US intelligence community’s venture arm.

According to Rao, the deal did not reflect any hurdles in getting more capital to stay independent.

“Raising money was not the problem. That was going to be relatively easy but by selling to Intel we have access to technology we’d never dream about,” Rao was quoted as saying.

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