Confession: I get really excited about hardware. I really go all out, mini-fist pump and everything.
Working in an industry where innovation is at the core of what we do means I get many opportunities to get excited. Here is my personal list of the best five (all legal!) highs I’ve experienced in the three years I’ve been at Imagination, ranked by tears of joy per square millimeter of face:
PowerVR Wizard ray tracing GPUs
Why: What a stupid thing to ask! BECAUSE RAY TRACING IS THE FUTURE AND THE FUTURE IS NOW! Back when ray tracing was something creatives brought up at Pixar meetings, a team of very smart engineers decided to bring it to the masses, come hell or high water. They named the company Caustic Graphics and the technology they produced was eventually integrated in our PowerVR Rogue architecture; thus a new family of GPUs was born! I can’t wait to show you Wizard in action soon.
When – where: March 18th, 2015 – GDC 2014, San Francisco
How: I was (among) the first to offer a standing ovation when the launch presentation was over.
Samsung ARTIK 1 (MIPS microAptiv)
Why: Samsung ARTIK 1 uses a unique architecture that has never been deployed in a chip before. Inside the SoC you’ll find a dual-core microcontroller: one is a microAptiv CPU that has all the right specs to run a rich operating system (a high-performance MMU + cache controllers); the other is a microAptiv MCU designed for low power operation. This combination helps the chip achieve weeks of battery life.
When – where: May 12th, 2015 – my bedroom, the cosmopolitan metropolis of Hemel Hempstead
How: I vividly remember saying (okay, maybe shouting): OH MY GOD, SAMSUNG WENT PUBLIC! IT SAYS MIPS IN THE SPEC SHEET! (Couldn’t sleep for about two hours after that.)
Why: Although there many MIPS-based embedded boards running OpenWrt, there was real demand for an affordable, high-performance platform that could run Linux distros and/or Android. Thanks to a great team of people inside Imagination, a few hundred boards were built. Initially intended to be donated to the open source community, demand for more stock exploded when word got out.
When – where: August 27th, 2015 – my workdesk, Kings Langley.
How: The announcement crashed our website. I couldn’t stop grinning.
Library demo for Vulkan API
Why: Even though PowerVR ships in a billion devices every year, we are still a small company if you compare us with Intel, NVIDIA or AMD in terms of financial resources and manpower. We have a small but dedicated in-house team that writes technical demos for PowerVR GPUs; we use their work to show to the outside world what can be achieved using our technology. After a provisional spec for Vulkan was finalized, we had about two months and one developer to produce something in time for GDC 2015. Ash did a great job porting the existing Library demo from OpenGL ES to Vulkan while the driver team wrote a alpha driver from scratch; in the end, we had a good technical demo running on existing hardware that was ready a few days before the official announcement. It felt very satisfying to see multiple mentions in the media and to get high praise from developers.
When – where: March 3rd, 2015 – GDC 2015, San Francisco
How: I kept taking my phone out every five minutes to check the number of visitors on our blog. People were worried about me.
Mobileye EyeQ4 (MIPS interAptiv, MIPS M5150)
Why: The concept of self-driving cars seems wacky to some but I can definitely see benefits. I’ve often found myself driving on a highway late at night, wishing someone (or something) could take over so I can get some rest. Driving under stress or fatigue can be dangerous to yourself and other motorists on the road. Having advanced ADAS functionality ready to take over when the driver can’t (automatically or not) requires a lot of processing power though. Mobileye EyeQ4
When – where: March 3rd, 2015 – MWC 2015, Barcelona
How: I wrote a blog about it. In ten minutes.
One announcement that I’ve left out on purpose is MIPSfpga; worry not, there was much excitement expressed there too. Given the historical signficance of the release, I thought it deserved a separate article which you can read by clicking here.