Oppo to unveil its NPU chip at its annual tech event

Oppo's teaser shows it will launch NPU
(Image credit: Oppo)

Oppo looks to have so much to announce at its annual Inno Day event that is scheduled to commence on December 14. Other than a “flagship product,” which now appears to be a retractable smartphone camera, Oppo will announce its in-house developed NPU chip as well. This became evident from a teaser poster that the company shared on Twitter.

Oppo tweets that its in-house developed Neural Processing Unit (NPU) is called MariSilicon X, but left us guessing what it does. Well, while there is nothing to glean as the details are pretty scarce at the moment, we can certainly deem a few things.

A special NPU unit could assist in enhancing the imaging by leveraging the power of AI. Something Oppo also hinted in the image posted inside its blog post announcing the event dates for Inno Day. 

It is believed that Oppo could use its retractable smartphone camera to show the prowess of its NPU at the event. It is also possible that the company could feature it in the much-rumored foldable phone. Either way, we will get to know about this NPU. 

In the past, we have seen smartphone manufacturers venturing into different application-based chips for special purposes. For instance, Xiaomi has been launching chips through its Surge series. More than four years back, the Chinese company announced the Surge S1 chipset, a 64-bit octa-core SoC and used it in its Mi 5c device

After taking a huge gap, the company launched Surge C1 this year in March. But instead of a fully-fledged chipset, the Surge C1 is an Image Signal Processing (ISP) chip that specializes in enhancing the performance of imaging. ISPs take the raw pixel data from the camera sensor and convert them to better picture quality.

It is possible that Oppo target the Surge C1 with its MariSilicon X chip. The NPU could leverage Oppo’s in-house developed AI algorithms to enhance imaging in the areas like autofocus, low-light performance, white balance, exposure, and so on. 

This looks different from what was reported more than a year ago. It was reported that Oppo is developing an in-house chipset, allegedly Oppo M1. The report didn’t divulge any further details but it did claim that Oppo had internally named its chipset development as “Mariana Project.” 

Later it came to notice that Oppo has also acquired shares of a semiconductor-based company. A couple of months back, Nikkei Asia also reported that Oppo is planning to use its mobile systems-on-a-chip in phones due out in 2023 or 2024. Later, we also heard the reported M1 chip is actually the ISP.

It looks like by launching an NPU first, Oppo is testing waters before it plans to take a dive into the semiconductor business. 

There's more....Smart Glasses

Among other things, Oppo also confirmed that it will bring Smart Glasses to the annual event. Oppo hasn't divulged details but we might get to know more about the same in a couple of days as Oppo has been enjoying giving teasers for its upcoming launches. Otherwise, the launch event isn't too far either. 

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Naina Batra

For the past seven plus years, Naina has been an avid follower of the consumer technology industry, with a special focus on gadgets. Her areas of focus include the broad world of smartphones, apps, wearables, and other consumer electronics. Always on the lookout for new and unique bits, Naina constantly seeks to find ways to share her knowledge with readers in a fashion that benefits both.