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Qualcomm’s AI chip chief departs to take helm at startup MemryX

Keith Kressin, the executive who oversaw Qualcomm Inc’s (QCOM.O) artificial intelligence chip efforts, has left to take the top job at a Michigan-based semiconductor startup.

Kressin has become chief executive of MemryX, founded in 2019 by University of Michigan professors Wei Lu and Zhengya Zhan, the company told Reuters. MemryX is working on its second generation of a chip aimed at helping cameras in places such as cars and factory robots recognize objects, a field called computer vision.

Kressin told Reuters he left Qualcomm, which is nearly tied with Intel Corp (INTC.O) for the tile of second-largest U.S. chip firm by market capitalization, for MemryX, which has only 30 employees, because he believes the startup solves a key problem in making artificial intelligence work in the real world.

Artificial intelligence models must be “trained” using powerful chips in data centers. To be used outside data centers, they must be modified to fit into smaller chips inside cameras or other devices. Those modifications – known as “hand tuning” – can be costly and time consuming.

MemryX says it aims to offer a chip that does not need hand tuning.

“You don’t need the intervening steps,” Kressin told Reuters. “It takes a long time to get traction because the software is so onerous.”

MemryX said Lu, co-founder who served as CEO previously, will remain chairman of the board and become chief technology officer. Kressin has relocated from Qualcomm’s home San Diego, California to MemryX’s headquarters in Ann Arbor, Michigan, where the startup hopes to cultivate customers among carmakers, who are rapidly adding chips to vehicles.

“A lot of times in tech and AI, you don’t talk much about the Midwest,” Kressin said. “That was one of the things that drew me here actually – the opportunity in Michigan.” Reuters

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