Intel announces the Neural Compute Stick 2 for deep learning acceleration

Efficient AI computing in a USB drive-sized package


The big picture: Creating software that relies on AI for decision making is quite difficult if there is not a way to simulate and test a system locally. Intel’s Neural Compute Stick allows developers to perform rapid prototyping in a controlled environment so that working software can be deployed for field testing after reasonable local validations have been made.

Building AI algorithms can be a daunting task for the novice developer or hobbyist. In order to enable more people to work with deep neural networks and improve AI software, Intel has launched the Neural Compute Stick 2. Looking much like a standard USB drive, the NCS 2 contains Intel’s Movidius Myriad X VPU.

The dedicated hardware neural network inference accelerator offers unmatched prototyping capabilities at a truly affordable price point. All that is required is a single NCS 2 and an available USB 3.0 port to get started. If one Neural Compute Stick is not enough, just fill up more USB ports. Intel is supporting the OpenVINO toolkit to make developing with a variety of packages as painless as possible.

After the prototyping stage, developers are able to port their projects over to other hardware. Belonging to Intel’s AI: In Production ecosystem, the NCS 2 allows for direct transfer of project to dozens of commercial-grade platforms ranging from vision acceleration to IoT devices.

Intel originally launched the first-generation NCS in July 2017. This revamped piece of hardware will bring even greater capabilities to the thousands of researchers that have worked with the original. Tens of thousands of developers have worked with the first iteration and have produced more than 700 videos of their work with it.

Even though this may not be a piece of hardware that is easily understood by everyone, it is a notable tool that makes AI accessible to the general public. The Neural Compute Stick 2 is expected to go on sale for around $100.

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