Home Technology I saw the future of AI at Qualcomm’s headquarters, and Copilot+ PCs were only just the beginning

I saw the future of AI at Qualcomm’s headquarters, and Copilot+ PCs were only just the beginning

I saw the future of AI at Qualcomm’s headquarters, and Copilot+ PCs were only just the beginning


Kyle Kucharski/ZDNET

I recently attended Qualcomm’s AI Day media workshop, where the company invited an intimate group of AI analysts and reporters to learn about the chipmaker’s deluge of technology development roadmaps, company updates, and hardware demos.

A series of panels featuring developers of third-party apps also touted the power of Qualcomm’s AI-infused chips, the Snapdragon X Elite and Snapdragon X Plus, highlighting both in the process.

Also: Every Copilot+ PC Microsoft announced to take on Apple’s M3 MacBooks

Qualcomm has been all over the news cycle this year. The explosion of its Snapdragon X Elite processors across a veritable army of Copilot+ Windows laptops has positioned the chip manufacturer as the tentative leader — previously, the underdog against the likes of IntelAMD, and Apple — in consumer-facing AI-powered computers.

It’s clear that Qualcomm is beaming with confidence, and here are my three biggest takeaways after attending yesterday’s AI analyst media workshop that prove it.

1. The other side of AI applications is just as fascinating   


Kyle Kucharski/ZDNET

Qualcomm doesn’t want to be seen solely as a manufacturer of consumer product chipsets; it aims to cultivate its image as a well-integrated presence on the cutting edge of the industry and an integral component fueling the next generation of AI applications. What better way to showcase its influence than to bring out a handful of successful companies in the AI space that can vouch for its products?

During the panel portion of the workshop, Qualcomm hosted Cephable CEO Alex Dunn, the VP of TruePic, and the Senior Director of Partnerships at McAfee to discuss their respective businesses and how Qualcomm’s chips have enabled AI innovation across their products and services.

Also: Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 8s Gen 3 brings more AI tools to Android phones. Here’s what’s new

It wasn’t all just talk. After the panel, the workshop featured demos from a barrage of company reps showing what they do and how the AI in Qualcomm’s chips allows them to do it.

Palantir showed a brief glimpse into its software platform that powers big data analytics (as well as military applications). McAfee showed off its deepfake detector with a bizarre AI-generated video of Mark Zuckerberg, and we saw a fun demo of Neural Mix Pro, an AI-powered DJ program that can extract elements from one song and seamlessly add them to another. The three very different applications were all equally impressive.

2. The future of AI continues to be on-device

Qualcomm Panel 2

Kyle Kucharski/ZDNET

If there’s one thing Qualcomm has been insistent about, it’s that on-device AI is the future, and that future is here. “We’re on a mission to bring AI processing away from the cloud and back toward the edge,” Qualcomm SVP Durga Malladi said during his keynote speech. In this context, “edge” refers to the local device, where AI models are smaller, more personalized, and more secure.

Also: Microsoft’s Surface Pro and Laptop are the ultimate ‘AI PCs’, and I’m worried for Apple

The first iterations of large language models (LLMs) were cloud-based because there was no other option. As LLMs grow exponentially, however, the cost of repeatedly accessing the cloud can no longer be ignored. With the release of flagship devices armed with Snapdragon X Elite and Snapdragon X Plus processors, on-device AI can now power a host of use cases: live translation and transcription, photo editing and image generation, virtual assistants, text summaries, and more.

To push its chipsets and devices back toward the “edge,” Qualcomm showcased its own AI stack during the workshop. This stack is designed to help developers create, test, and distribute their applications efficiently. Additionally, keeping personal data on the device enhances security, preventing it from floating around on the internet.

3. This is only the beginning

Qualcomm Panel 4

Kyle Kucharski/ZDNET

The final message from Qualcomm’s media workshop was clear: this is only the tip of the iceberg. The company’s confidence in its product was reinforced not only by frequently citing its long history in the industry (Malladi kicked off the keynote by asking, “When was the first time we started talking about AI?”) but also by demoing virtually every product mentioned and openly discussing future developments.

Qualcomm’s end goal for its AI technology is what it calls “embodied AI,” which involves the complete integration of machine learning, multimodal AI, and LLM technology into a hybrid, always-on AI that is infused into every aspect of a device’s capabilities.

Also: AI leaders urged to integrate local data models for diversity’s sake

We might not be there quite yet, and there are still many unanswered questions regarding the performance of Qualcomm’s new Snapdragon X Elite laptops (and Microsoft’s end of the bargain with the controversy and delay of its Recall feature). Nevertheless, Qualcomm’s confidence in its product signals a palpable shift in the industry and could lead to innovations that all types of consumers can get excited about.

Disclosure: The cost of Kyle Kucharski’s travel to San Diego for Qualcomm AI Day was covered by Qualcomm, a common industry practice for long-distance trips. The judgments and opinions of ZDNET’s writers and editors are always independent of the companies we cover.

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