Google has announced [googleblog.com] that its custom-made tensor processing units [wikipedia.org] (TPUs) have been made available for rent on the Google Cloud Platform [nytimes.com]:
A few years ago, Google created a new kind of computer chip [nytimes.com] to help power its giant artificial intelligence systems. These chips were designed to handle the complex processes that some believe will be a key to the future of the computer industry. On Monday, the internet giant said it would allow other companies to buy access to those chips through its cloud-computing service. Google hopes to build a new business around the chips, called tensor processing units, or T.P.U.s.
[...] In addition to its T.P.U. chips, which sit inside its data centers, the company has designed an A.I. chip for its smartphones [techcrunch.com].
Right now, Google's new service is focused on a way to teach computers to recognize objects, called computer vision technology. But as time goes on, the new chips will also help businesses build a wider range of services, Mr. Stone said. At the end of last year, hoping to accelerate its work on driverless cars, Lyft began testing Google's new chips. Using the chips, Lyft wanted to accelerate the development of systems that allow driverless cars to, say, identify street signs or pedestrians. "Training" these systems can take days, but with the new chips, the hope is that this will be reduced to hours. "There is huge potential here," said Anantha Kancherla, who oversees software for the Lyft driverless car project.
T.P.U. chips have helped accelerate the development of everything from the Google Assistant, the service that recognizes voice commands on Android phones, to Google Translate, the internet app that translates one language into another. They are also reducing Google's dependence on chip makers like Nvidia and Intel. In a similar move, it designed its own servers and networking hardware, reducing its dependence on hardware makers like Dell, HP and Cisco.