Artificial intelligence. Machine learning. Rise of the robots. We’re sure you’ve been hearing a lot of these buzzwords and future fears, especially with new phones such as the Huawei P20 series. Is there anything to worry about? Let us help you quickly dig into what it all means, and if it’s time to pack a survival kit, get off the grid and stay there.

What’s an “AI phone”?

First, let’s start with the term “artificial intelligence” or AI. There are many varying definitions, but we’ll choose to define it as the science and engineering of creating intelligent machines that may eventually simulate human intelligence. It’s often confused with “machine learning”, which is one approach or application to AI, where we give the machine access to data and let it learn. Machine learning is often task-driven and strives to answer a question that you ask. What AI aims to achieve, is building a machine that knows the right questions to ask.

Makes sense? Sweet. Now, how does AI work in our phones? Right now, most phones already engage with AI, which occurs mostly over the cloud. Talk to Alexa or Siri and what actually happens is that your request gets sent to Amazon or Apple’s AI servers before the answer is sent back to your phone.

The big news of late has been the Huawei P20 and Mate 10 series, which use the new Kirin 970 chipset. Tiny as a fingernail, it’s touted as the world’s first chip to have its own NPU (Neural Processing Unit). This allows the phone to house its own artificial intelligence or personal brain that can bypass the cloud. We won’t go into details; it’s simply a massive upgrade on the tech in most phones and computers.

What can it do for you?

Well, for a start, it can apparently drive a car. On its own. But that’s more for the future. Remember how most phones are stuck working with AI over the cloud? That takes time, your phone’s resources and the need for connectivity. The more complicated the task involving AI, the more intense the load on your phone. But with in-built artificial intelligence, your phone can either choose to engage AI over the cloud, use its own AI or a mix of both. In short, this gives you some pretty good stuff:

Speed and efficiency

The idea is that with a “brain” on board, your phone will know how best to spend or save its resources - much like how our bodies react accordingly on when to stroll or sprint. This potentially means longer battery life, faster offline photo-to-text translations (in the case of Huawei) and faster processing of images and information.

Expert help in real-time

With faster real-time processing, AI brings loads of possibilities to your everyday phone use. For example, the Huawei P20 Pro has insane triple Leica cameras and the biggest sensor on the market yet (40MP RGB) - taken to the next level by an AI-powered subject and scene recognition capability. It can identify in real-time up to 19 categories like “food”, “fireworks”, “night-shot”, “group shot”, “dog” and “beach”.

You simply point the lens, and it can tell a dog from a cat, a sunset from a sunrise or recognise your Sunday brunch. It’ll auto-adjust its settings for your purpose, to get optimal lighting and focus, like how a professional would. No more struggling with auto-focus locks and brightness levels while trying to capture your shot. Artificial intelligence does all that for you (and with AI image stabilisation!), so you’re very likely to get gorgeous pictures every time.

A phone that “grows” with you

Here comes the beauty of machine learning that sits right inside your phone. With much more “brainpower”, an AI phone picks up cues from your daily usage habits, learns what matters to you and tries to make those activities better. It ideally predicts your behaviour and anticipates the right actions. This can mean your favourite apps loading faster, pre-loading a compiled newsfeed from your most-viewed sites every morning or taking the initiative to silence your phone once it detects that you’ve reached the office, like you always do.

More privacy (yes, really!)

Here’s a surprising one. Your privacy may actually benefit. More data is stored on your phone’s AI-enabled chip, instead of via the cloud. This makes your phone and personal data less prone to hacking, server failures and other digital crimes.

AI phones: Awesome supertech or apocalypse now?

Relax. Machines aren’t going to take over the human race. Yet. For all its advances, today’s phone technology is just one small step towards the true potential of artificial intelligence. Right now, artificial intelligence and machine learning are still in its infancy. More importantly, it can bring tonnes of cool and useful features to phone users in their everyday lives.

Imagine your phone instantly helping you schedule a work meeting based on your last email sent, playing your favourite Spotify playlist when it “senses” you’re down (you’ve been sending ‘sad’ emojis to friends on WhatsApp), or ordering a care package when it knows you’ve been sick or having a poor diet.

Sure, most of these intelligent services are already active today in various apps, but think of what it can do when it’s all combined and triggered by one brain on your phone. It’ll truly be the ultimate personal assistant, anticipating what you need and actually meeting it.

We’re already seeing a rise in flagship phones with AI-powered chips. So things are about to get very interesting. If all this talk of artificial intelligence excites you, why not get your headstart with the Huawei Pro 20 series phones on StarHub? You’ll enjoy up to 1Gbps surfing speeds plus unlimited data every weekend for free!

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