Sam Altman tours Samsung chip factory leaving us wondering what he's up to

Hands-on with the Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra
(Image credit: Nicholas Sutrich / Android Central)

What you need to know

  • OpenAI CEO Sam Altman wants to start making custom artificial intelligence chips.
  • Last Friday, Altman toured a Samsung fabrication plant in a move that broke tradition and was surrounded by secrecy.
  • It is also rumored that Altman toured SK hynix, which is one of Asia's largest memory manufacturers.

In the months since Sam Altman was reinstated as CEO of OpenAI, he has not been shy about his curiosity and interest in making custom artificial intelligence processors. Industry leaders such as Intel, AMD, Apple, and Qualcomm have all added neural processing units to their chipsets, equipping them to handle AI tasks. 

Now, Altman may be looking to join in on the AI processor race. The OpenAI CEO toured Samsung and SK hynix last week in South Korea, according to The Korea Times and ET News reports.

The two South Korean newspapers say that Altman arrived in the country last Friday. Then, the executive traveled to a Samsung Electronics factory in Pyeongtaek. Here, Altman reportedly spoke to Kye Hyun Kyun, the CEO of Samsung Device Solutions. Altman also received a tour of Samsung's production lines, per the reports.

The trip was surrounded in secrecy and appears to be a rare move by Samsung. The company does not often give tours of its production lines to outsiders, according to The Korea Times. 

Memory chips were a focus of Altman's trip, and it's not hard to see why. Advanced AI processes have large memory requirements, so having speedy and high-capacity RAM is paramount. That's why Altman allegedly visited SK hynix after touring the Samsung plant, as the former company is one of Asia's largest memory manufacturers.

There are also rumblings about Altman working with Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC), which is the world's largest chip fabricator. TSMC also has some of the most advanced foundry processes available today. In conjunction with Apple, it manufactured the A17 Pro chip — the first of its kind to be made using the 3nm process node.

Separately, reports have suggested that Altman could work with foreign investors to start his own chipmaking company. There is a lot that is unclear at this time, however.

It's not immediately apparent what Altman and OpenAI plan to do with AI chips. Hardware devices for AI are rising, with devices like Humane's AI Pin and the Rabbit R1 nearing release. Smartphones are also getting supercharged with AI, such as the Google Pixel 8 series and the Samsung Galaxy S24 series.

Altman and OpenAI could be exploring a device of their own, planning to outsource chips to another OEM, or continuing its relationship with Microsoft — its largest investor. Whatever ends up happening, Altman's supposed visit to South Korean chipmakers shows how serious he and the company are about processor fabrication. 

Brady Snyder

Brady is a tech journalist covering news at Android Central. He has spent the last two years reporting and commenting on all things related to consumer technology for various publications. Brady graduated from St. John's University in 2023 with a bachelor's degree in journalism. When he isn't experimenting with the latest tech, you can find Brady running or watching sports.