Tag: CES

World not ready to wear computers yet

The CES show was full of outfits hoping to show off wearable computers and connected devices, but, while they were interesting, none of them showed that the technology works well enough yet.

Who wants a wristwatch which checks your text messages or glasses that capture video?   Now even if you could find a use for such a toy, the designs are clumsy and the prices high and basically they cannot do enough.

The other day I thought of a use for Google Glass.  I thought it would be really useful if you were giving a speech or having to say something else scripted in front of the public that you had your script appear before your eyes as you said it.

However someone pointed out that your entire speech would be ruined by you having to say “scroll” when you finished a sentence.  Therefore, the only real use for Google Glass is still to make home made point of view porn and I am not sure how much of a market that is.

The other problem is that all the wearable gadgets look the same and pretty much do the same thing. So far, there is no brand which stands out.

Sony, Samsung and Qualcomm showed off new or recently launched smartwatches, most of which act as extensions to mobile, letting users check messages and appointments. But all they seem to save from doing is taking your phone out of your pocket.

Wristbands, like the popular Fitbit that tracks physical activity where most of the devices on display at CES. But really that is it.  What is the point and is it worth, as Intel is, to bet the farm on technology which is not really happening yet?

Nvidia spills beans on K1

Nvidia is telling the world+dog about its K1 mobile chip which it claims will provided beefed-up graphics for mobile gadgets and cars.

For those who came in late the K1 is Nvidia’s first mobile chip to incorporate the Kepler graphics technology.

Chief Executive Jen-Hsun Huang told reporters at the Consumer Electronics Show was trying to talk up the companies move into mobile as if it was all part of the cunning plan and not a response to declining PC sales.

He said that Nvidia hoped that adding cutting-edge graphics technology to its mobile chips will entice more manufacturers and consumers to see tablets as viable alternatives to consoles for playing high-end games like first-person shooters.

Huang claimed that the K1 brought mobile computing to the same level as desktop computing and the same level as supercomputing. You have to admire Huang’s hyperbole, which sometimes is so big he can take a skiing holiday on its upper slopes.

Nvidia has not had much luck in mobiles. Its Tegra 4 processors are used in Microsoft Surface 2 tablet and a smartphone made by Xiaomi in China, but generally it has not gone anywhere given the amount the company spends in R&D.

In the third quarter, sales from Nvidia’s Tegra mobile chips fell 54 percent and sales from its PC graphics chips, which account for the majority of the company’s total revenue, declined 2 percent.

K1 was previously codenamed Logan, an alias of the comic book superhero Wolverine and not a Sandman on the run from turning 30.

An automotive version of the chip will be ideal for camera-based computation in future self-driving cars with applications like pedestrian detection and collision avoidance, Huang said.

Nvidia’s Tegra K1 lineup will also include a version with 64-bit features.

A 32-bit version of the K1 chip to appear in devices in the first half of 2014, with the 64-bit chip appearing later in the year.

Nvidia is hoping that the car industry and cloud computing will fuel future growth. It has made deals with Audi, BMW and Tesla to use Tegra chips in dashboard entertainment and navigation systems.

One thing you will not find Huang mentioning is the handheld gaming device called Shield, which appears this time last year. Nvidia has not said how many Shield devices it has shipped since their launch in July.

Menacing Big Bird steals the spotlight at bizarre Qualcomm CES opening

Sadly, we’re not at CES this year. If we were, we’d have seen Qualcomm CEO Paul Jacobs talk through some boast-worthy figures about mobile chips before oddity after oddity swamped the show and turned the keynote into an exceedingly strange exercise in raising the bar for surreal conference openings.   

For starters, a trio of actors dressed as two CBBC presenters and one city worker enthusiastically danced around the stage and told the audience that the key to ‘pwning’ half the world, running conferences, and being popular is mobile phones. The three hopped about, bellowed cringe-worthy cliches, and effectively demonstrated the dangers of taking too much non-prescription Adderall, the whole while making the two teen texters from the London Olympics look like the finest choreography of the Royal Ballet.

Later, they, Jacobs, and surprise guest Steve Ballmer were upstaged by a familiar but somewhat off-kilter and disturbing appearance from Sesame Street’s avian nineties superstar, Big Bird.

Big Bird commanded a sinister presence, lumbering, hunched, over a half-man, half-bird subordinate, directing him with a menacing, pointed claw. The employee tried his best not to drown in his own fear-sweat as he searched for the word ‘milk’ in front of a crowd of bemused technology pundits, but Big Bird continued to pressure him and laugh sporadically as the ‘bird-keteer’ fumbled with his ‘word-o-scope’. 

Big Bird occasionally waited for applause in between giggles that sounded like the death rattle of a helium balloon. When asked how the feathered philanthropist put together the demo software, Big Bird conceded he never learned to code but instead outsourced it to ‘owls’ – a chilling nod to the emerging leitmotif of third world sweatshop-coders churning out packaged software and services for the west, paid in peanuts, so an iPad-equipped brat can learn to spell cereal on a Sesame Street branded iPad app instead of with a book.

Actress Alice Eve then made an appearance, and it looked like she didn’t know quite how to react to Jacobs. Despite her best attempts to kick start some banter, Jacobs, eyes darting around the room, instead urged her to speak more about the upcoming Star Trek movie. After it clicked for Eve that any plausibly faked on-stage chemistry was not going to happen, she read from the auto-cue like a pro until it was time to go. And a Rolls Royce rolled across the platform. 

According to The Verge, Maroon 5 closed the keynote, except for viewers watching the live stream who were instead treated to an over-dub of a Dido-lite. Jacobs stood stage left for the duration.

What is quite bizarre is Qualcomm’s organising committee putting together a Cirque du Soleil of surprise guests, violent film snippets, iconic childhood TV presenters and celeb interviews rather than focusing entirely on the position the company has found itself in. Solidly entrenched in the mobile landscape, Qualcomm is involved in all sorts of interesting projects, but sadly, the little content there was fell victim to questionably vivacious showboating. Perhaps the entire show was a self-aware exercise in irony, being as it was, the opening to the most preposterous trade show in the USA’s most preposterous location of Lost Wages. Or, it could have been a masterstroke in creating an unforgettable experience, manipulating the bemused masses into talking about a company that, except among techies, is not exactly a household name – yet.

Either way. The Verge’s ‘supercut’ needs to be seen to be believed, while the rest of the keynote can be viewed, thanks to CNET, can be viewed below as well. The Verge also has a collection of pictures and tweets which are well worth a look.

LG, Samsung announce curved OLED TVs

LG and Samsung have both launched  the first curved screen, OLED TVs. Both have utilised the technology to create curved TV’s, which can be viewed from any angle. 

Samsung has not released too much information about what it plans to offer, with its executive vice president of visual displays HS Kim, merely claiming in a statement that the company would continue to enhance the product line “beyond the World’s First Curved OLED TV.”

LG went into a little bit more detail.  The company’s 55 inch EA9800 boasts full 3D cinema support, which when coupled with the curve design, gives users a better viewing experience and removes the problem of screen-edge visual distortion.  In addition, the company claims its proprietary WRGB technology – a Four-Colour Pixel system with a white sub-pixel – gives better screen quality. 

This technology is said to work in conjunction with the standard RGB setup and through the built-in Colour Refiner delivers better tonal enhancements. To put it simply, it means that images that are more vibrant, according to the company.  

No separate backlight is needed, meaning the TV is super-skinny, with LG using carbon fiber-reinforced plastic (CFRP) to reduce unit weight as well.

LG says its Cinema Screen Design feature contains elements that result in a narrow screen bezel, which is practically invisible to the naked eye and so improves viewing.

Finally, the Smart Touch Control feature allows people to control the TV’s basic functions, such as changing channels and volume, and powering on or off. Pricing and availability have not yet been announced.

Online snake oil peddlers hit CES

It appears that CES is not immune from digital snake oil peddlers, according to Science blogger Orac.

He was wandering around CES and spotted a booth being run by something called QuantumMAN™, which bills itself as the world’s first downloadable MEDICINE. The word MEDICINE was capped so that users did not confuse it with medicine, which comes from one of those big, nasty pharmaceutical companies.

Apparently all you need to do is buy a Portal Access Key™ (PAK™) and data then transfers from a remote quantum computer to your brain’s neural network for the benefits desired.

QuantumMAN is being peddled by the Zürich Alpine Group which claims to be a private humanitarian medical research group of scientists and physicians working cooperatively. You might not have heard of them because they work very quietly around the world in the quest to improve the quality, efficacy and costs of medical care.

ZAG claims to have found a way to transfer bioinformation from its quantum computer via quantum teleportation to the brain, also a quantum computer, to reprogram the brain to effect positive medical changes within the body and mind.

It has to stay quiet because Big Pharma will crush its technology, appropriating it for its own, and then charge exorbitant sums for it.

At the booth,  ZAG claims to have conducted clinical trials around the world testing its new developments for efficacy and safety. Curiously none of the results of these studies have been published nor seen by other scientists. This is because ZAG thinks that Big Pharma and politics influence the peer review system.

However, after years of testing, it has decided to arrange the creation of a web presence as the venue for the presentation of its numerous products developed from its technology.

QuantumMAN™ can cure malaria, influenza, and the common cold. You can even immunise your kids from becoming addicted to meth by downloading some ZAG programming.

One app called Zaxis™ promises 24 hour pain control and if you are overweight you can even undergo a form of “quantum gastric bypass surgery” by reprogramming your brain.

The idea is so full of holes that it is hard to begin. Not only does it use quantum computing technology which has not been invented yet, but loses so many points on logic it is not funny.

The product in all its purple, black and green glory can be found here.

Orac thinks the idea is so whacko it must be a hoax, but there was too much salesmanship going on, and there was an actual checkout for the store selling the “downloads”.

The blogger was surprised that CES 2013 organisers will rent a booth to anyone.  

Intel thinks future PCs will be like Kinect

Fashion bag maker Intel has been looking at its tarot cards and rattling its bones, and come to the conclusion that future PCs will look more like Microsoft’s Xbox based Kinect.

According to displays at CES, Intel is convinced that a PC session will be more like a badly choreographed game of charades. Of course Intel is not calling it that – the name is probably patented and trademarked.

Instead the company is dubbing it as “perceptual computing” because everyone knows, perception is everything. Intel execs are also saying that they want your PC to have “senses” and know your face.

Intel was telling the excited throngs that its face recognition technology could be used to unlock devices and track more facial features.

Apparently they have worked out a way to avoid a person breaking into your computer by waving a photograph of you downloaded from Facebook.

Chipzilla’s gesture recognition works within a 3D environment and can track all eight of your fingers and two thumbs. Intel showed a game where a user grabs and drops items.

Intel’s voice recognition is probably not anything more than a natural language voice-input which puts it in the league of Apple’s Siri and Google’s voice recognition tools, which still can’t do some accents.

Most of Chipzilla’s perceptive computing has been seen before in various gadgets, but it seems that Intel wants to put them together, in a goulash of gadgetry. Of course they say seamless a lot when they talk about such things, but PR rubbish leaves us in stiches so we prefer food references.

Ultimately, Intel’s future for the PC involves lots of arm waving and shouting at the screen. Pretty much what we do now, only the computer will understand us. We are not sure if this is a good thing 

Intel is getting desperate claims Qualcomm

Intel’s latest Atom-based wireless chip-set Medfield is a product of desperation according to rivals Qualcomm.

Sy Choudury, director of product management was collared by SlashGear and asked what he thought about Medfield. He said that it was a good product in that, unlike other Intel mobile chips it actually worked. Howver he said that it had been built out of desperation rather than any real innovation.

According to Electronics Weekly, he thought Medfield was a sign that Intel was getting a bit better on the mobile front. But then again it has a long way to go and Qualcomm was getting better too.

Choudury thought that Intel problems were compounded by internal politics which deny any business unit, except the PC business unit, access to the company’s latest manufacturing processes.

Intel’s wireless chips are not due to be put onto its upcoming 22nm process until 2013, and will not be made on a leading-edge process until Intel introduces 14nm processing probably around 2014/15.

However TSMC/ARM are already making ARM-based chip-sets in volume production quantities on 28nm, and expect to move onto a 20nm process later this year and onto a 14nm process next year.

Choudury’s comments are similar to those made by ARM boss Warren East, as we reported yesterday, who thought that technically Medfield was better than it has ever been before for smartphones, but they are still a generation or two behind ARM. 

Nvidia's OpenACC helps researchers with their coding

Nvidia has just started a new initiative with PGI to help techies speed up their scientific or industrial code by using GPU directives.

The OpenACC directive page has just been launched here. Nvidia tells us that scientists can register on the page and learn how to speed up their code with GPU number crunching.

GPU directives accelerate code by inserting compiler hints into the code and the compiler will automatically map compute-intensive portions of it to the GPU.

Obviously, Nvidia has an interest in getting people to use its GPUs to process data in parallel to standard CPUs.

But a lot of software developers find writing code to do it fairly tricky. GPUs perform best when the hundreds of cores are kept busy with thousands or even millions of threads of parallel execution.

Nvidia has given several examples of how tweaking code helped researchers at the University of Groningen, who were trying to understand the origins of the universe, speed up their program by 5.6 times.

Another case involved Global Oil Company which sped up a simulation of petrol reservoirs by three times. 

Qualcomm opts for no four eye tablet

Master Image, which we encountered in Lost Wages only last month, tells TechEye it has a major design win on the books.

Qualcomm is going to show off a glasses free 3D tablet in Barcelona in a week’s time.

The Snapdragon Tablet 3D edition will be on Qualcomm’s stand next week. The design uses Master Image’s 3D Cell Matrix Parallax Barrier Technology.

You can read more about it on the Master Image site, which is here. We are so looking forward to SnowBIT! Senior VP Roy Taylor told us at CES that we guys in the UK would be able to buy stuff using its technology in Autumn, or Fall as we call it.

From NFC to artificial brains: Future Horizons' future of chips

As well as looking at the state of the chip industry, IFS2012 saw Future Horizons give some predictions into the application of semiconductors over the coming years.

Starting with what the coming year is likely to have in store, CTO Mike Bryant gave his predictions stretching out into the almost unknown, twenty-odd years hence.

It is expected that Apple will finally get to stick some NFC chips into the iPhoneSamsung is also expected to push the technology this year, according to some IFS attendees.

As expected, Ultrabooks will pervade into mainstream consciousness, though, as Bryant points out, most will want until a generation running on Windows 8 appears later in the year before splashing out.  Windows on ARM is not expected to have much effect, though we imagine will grab headlines when released.

The TV market will carry on pushing 3D and, following the CES show-stealing, smart TVs will see a boost. Whether manufacturers will be able to meet the struggle for profits this year is another question though.  Apple TV rumours were also fuelled, adding to expectations that even larger needless shiny rectangles will make it into our lives by the end of the year.

Just as TechEye has been saying semiconductors will also make an assault on classrooms, with government backing products such as the RaspberryPi to promote computing and programming for a new generation.

Longer term, Bryant gave his predictions on the further evolution of the semi industry, with Intel leading the way with 15nm Trigate development, and larger production beginning possibly the year after.  450mm wafers will begin testing at its Albany site, with low scale production the following year.

Meanwhile TSMC and GloFo will fire up 20nm planar chip development, though whether more advanced process difficulties will be seen is unknown.

ARM’s global takeover, according to its bosses at least, will also begin with the big.LITTLE concept appearing  in its A15/A7 chip combination.

4G should finally arrive in the airwaves of Blighty in 2013 too, some years after others got their hands on it. Though it could be a while still before many people actually get to use it.

2014 should see some exciting developments with production of memristor technology, while 2015 could bring about Intel fiddling around with 11nm process Trigate chips.

By 2016 the LED lighting market should finally move into people’s lives, overcoming current cost issues with larger production levels cutting price, leading to a $30 billion industry by the end of the decade.   Work into self-powering devices should become mainstream this year too, beginning to open up the almost frightening possibilities of the Internet of Things.

Jumping to 2018 Intel will be producing 11nm chips in large scale as Moore’s Law begins to hit a slowdown to a three year cycle. Large scale 15nm production on 450mm wafers should see massive amounts of chips churned aiding to the ubiquity of semiconductors in our lives.

By this point it is entirely possible, Bryant says, that graphene circuits could be rivalling silicon with large scale production of chips based on the material.

Towards the end of the decade 5nm process devices could be demonstrated, with a convergence of memory and logic technologies allowing for the development of artificial brains.

From here on out the roadmap blurs into science fiction, but in the next ten to fifteen years work into 3nm processes should push Moore’s Law to its absolute limits, while we could finally be buying examples of the next step: quantum computing.

Implantable mobile phones will mean that it is truly impossible to be uncontactable, 24/7 telehealth monitoring could allow people to put their life in the hands of NHS IT staff, and quasi-intelligent robots will FINALLY begin to become available.

As for hoverboards though, it appears we will have to wait for IFS2013 at least before we find out.