Creating art normally takes skill and dedication, but now it just takes a few keystrokes to create original AI art good enough to win contests. Most of the AI tools you’ve seen have been running on powerful servers in the cloud. Qualcomm just showed what’s possible on a smartphone with its latest ARM chip. The company has adapted the Stable Diffusion art generator to run on a smartphone, and it’s reportedly as fast as it is on a powerful desktop machine.
Stable Diffusion is one of a multitude of AI tools that can take a text prompt and turn it into original artwork. In Qualcomm’s new demo of Stable Diffusion on Android, it went with “super cute fluffy cat warrior in armor.” Running on the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2, it took the compressed Stable Diffusion just 14.4 seconds to generate a 512 x 512 cat image. In late 2022, Apple released optimizations to get Stable Diffusion running on its Core ML framework. However, the current-gen iPhone takes about a minute to generate an image.
Qualcomm and others are focusing more on machine learning workloads in the latest chips — similar projects on older phones might take up to an hour to create one image. While the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 has a ton of advanced GPU and CPU cores, that’s not what matters here. Credit for the record-setting mobile AI art goes to the Hexagon digital signal processor, which has been overhauled in recent generations with AI-specific enhancements.
The company’s engineers used a technique called quantization to shrink the Stable Diffusion model and make it suitable to run on a smartphone. It started with the v1.5 release of Stable Diffusion in FP32 format, using its latest AI research to compress the model to INT8 (8-bit data space). This makes the model more efficient and faster on mobile hardware, while technologies like Qualcomm’s Adaptive Rounding maintain the model’s accuracy without the need for retraining.
Qualcomm says this is the beginning of “edge AI,” an era in which our personal devices will have enough power to run AI models locally instead of relying on the cloud. Running a large, advanced AI model like Stable Diffusion on a phone means it could also run on devices with similar hardware, such as VR/AR headsets, tablets, and laptops.
The Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 was announced late last year and has just started shipping in devices like the OnePlus 11 and Samsung Galaxy S23. It will be common in new Android phones throughout 2023, but you might not be able to enjoy the full might of its AI processing. Qualcomm created its version of Stable Diffusion for internal testing and makes no mention of releasing it publicly.
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