Feb 8, 2011

How APUs are changing computing

Window shopping on the streets of Paris or marveling at the hand-crafted , delicate designs of the latest haute couture can very well be done from your living room. All you need is a pair of high-resolution video glasses and your laptop.

Geeks call this virtual reality, but it has gone a step further to become interactive virtual reality wherein users can take in the sights, sounds and even smells of the Parisian streets as they explore their surroundings.

These new digital experiences are being powered by new processors with built in graphics capabilities, collectively named APUs or accelerated processing units. With glasses like the Wrap VR1200, recently unveiled at the CES 2011, all 2D and 3D video and head-tracking for many Windows-based programs can become a real-time experience.

Interactive virtual reality is possibly the future of technology and personal computing. The shift is radical as technology companies vie to crunch data meant for large format screens on small ones, provide longer battery life for their products and offer technology to keep their gadgets cool.

The APUs making this hi-tech story a reality are combining more and more graphic features to ensure a streamlined video-experience . Here are some of the exciting applications we can look forward to in the course of this year.

Advanced face recognition
Managing all those videos and photographs can be an arduous task. Fishing out the right ones on a later date can be even more difficult. Many user-friendly tools like Viewdle's face detection product can help identify and share photographs and videos easily.

Explaining the new technique , Laurent Gil, CEO of Viewdle says: "The software detects faces within a video or set of photos, and groups them into clusters of faces that our engine recognizes".

Once this is done, you can get a ribbon of thumbnails on their screen. "You can either assign a name to a person by typing it or by connecting to a Facebook account and selecting a name from your Facebook friend list," explains Gil.

Fusion chips have been played a crucial role in stepping up the speed and cuts detection time by more than half, says Gil. The next phase of evolution is likely to be even more exciting as Viewdle is trying to make face recognition between the desktop, cloud, and mobile device seamless and synchronized.

This means that users who build a faceprint database — that is a set of saved tags of a user's friends' faces —will be able to port the database between devices.

Changing Screens virtually
TV crew and videographers have traditionally used a green screen behind them while the cameras roll. This green screen can easily be replaced with any backdrop to match the theme of the program.

For instance, if a TV anchor is talking about the weather, the screen can show weather patterns. However, virtual green screens are available now. So, if you want to upload a video on YouTube, all you need to do is videograph the presentation.

It does not matter where the presenter stands – whether in a newsroom or near a pile of rubbish. Products like the ones by Nuvixa can be downloaded to create an instant backdrop. Note that this is just a basic application. A more sophisticated version is seen in the PowerPoint 10.1 application.

Talking PowerPoints
In the next version of PowerPoint (10.1), you can customize the matter in such a way that the presenter can actually be part of a final presentation. You can see the presenter on the screen, pointing out the various details and explaining the matter to users. Here again, there is a play on the background.

Instead of the customary backdrop, you can have a graphic sheet. New Z-Definition technology makes use of new sensors and computer vision algorithms to create new possibilities. But as Sanjay R Patel, CEO of Nuvixa says: "These products deal with next-generation video communication and require high computing power."

These technology products are expected to be launched later this year. "Chip maker AMD's latest fusion platform is used in this technology" , says Manju Hegde, corporate vice-president, Fusion Experience Program of AMD. The fusion platform is AMD's latest potent combo of graphics and a computer chip.

"There is a growing need for small form factors which can be seen in the current Fusion series of chips," says Manoher Bommena, senior director (Layout Design), who is part of AMD's Hyderabad team which developed two of the recently-launched fusion chips.

More personal video communication
This could be particularly useful for those using webcams and video calling services like Skype. Today, due to its placement, a person does not look at directly at the webcam but at the screen.

With the increasing processing power of new chips, an auto-correction could happen in real time, making it seem like the person is looking at you directly making the experience more personal.

This feature will be exploited by Skype as well as other video conferencing services in the near future. AMD's Fusion chips can be used for this as well.

The competition
While AMD has been making a lot of noise over its Fusion platform, a similar chip codenamed 'Sandy Bridge' brought out by Intel in early January was recalled at the end of the month. Though the problem isn't immediate, it may happen over time.

A Serial-ATA (SATA) port within the affected chip sets may work fine initially, but may start to generate data errors at a later date. According to Intel's official statement on the matter, "Intel has stopped shipment of the affected support chip from its factories.

Intel has corrected the design issue, and has begun manufacturing a new version of the support chip which will resolve the issue. For the first quarter of 2011, Intel expects this issue to reduce revenue by approximately $300 million . Total cost to repair and replace affected materials and systems in the market is estimated to be $700 million."

Read More: http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/tech/personal-tech/computing/How-APUs-are-changing-computing/articleshow/7446556.cms

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