Qualcomm gave us
some insight today (2 March) at Mobile World Congress
into exactly what kinds of smarts we can expect from the next
generation of smartphones. As well as teasing details of the
64-bit Snapdragon 820 chip
that will arrive later this year, the company hinted at the
capabilities of its Zeroth platform, which is designed to make
Imagine, if you will, that you are taking a picture of the
English countryside using your smartphone. At the moment, your
phone may have some HDR capabilities that will help balance the
shot, but beyond making basic judgments about light it doesn’t
really know what you’re pointing the lens at.
Zeroth is set to change that. Your phone will be able identify
features such as sky, flowers and hills, as well as the birds in
the sky and a castle in the distance. The phone will then set the
parameters accordingly. If people pop into the picture, it won’t
just recognise that there are faces present, but it will be able,
in real time, to label them, and this information will be recorded
in the metadata of the shot.
“We’ve chosen 30 to 40 different situations that we have trained
that platform to recognise,” explained Raj Tulluri, demoing the
platform on stage at Qualcomm’s press conference. That way, he
adds, “you always get the perfect picture”.
It also means that the more you use the camera, the better it
can get. “Think about having a phone that is constantly updating
itself,” says Tulluri. “That’s just the tip of the iceberg.”
To an extent we already see smartphones improve as new versions
of operating systems are released, but this is likely to be a trend
that will spread to more products over the coming years and will
speed up as cognitive computing becomes quicker and cheaper.
Instead of getting worse over time, we will gradually see value
added as our technology learns more about us and therefore has more
data points to actually make decisions with.
The thinking capabilities of Zeroth will not just extend to
visual image recognition, but a whole list of features. These
include security, seamless connectivity, always-on awareness,
immersive multimedia, natural interactions — including gestures
and facial expressions — and speech and audio recognition.
All of this will be done on the device, but leveraging cloud
infrastructure and applications. It is this kind of progress in
cognitive computing abilities that will take not only mobile
technology, but the whole Internet of Things to the next level. And
indeed Qualcomm says that while Zeroth has been built for phones
and tablets, the platform has the potential to scale to other
technologies as well.
First though, it will come to phones — and not in the
too-distant future. The Snapdragon 820 will be the first chipset
optimised for Zeroth and manufacturers will start sampling the
processor at the end of 2015. If you’re looking for the next
exciting thing to happen in smartphones, this is it, and what it
will result in is the most personalised and intuitive user