Graphics, Hardware

Nvidia puts spotlight on partners


No man is an island, nor does a chip manufacturer stand alone. Nvidia proved that at their press conference by highlighting the partners who make them shine.  Mr. Jen-Hsun Huang, co-founder, president and CEO of Nvidia narrated his own presentation, introducing, and interviewing, the folks Nvidia has worked with over the years. The company was founded in 1993.

Huang?s introduction to the session covered some history. The iPhone proved that people want to do mobile computing, which he considers a ?worthy problem to tackle.? The Web is formatted at  four to eight times the resolution of a smartphone. Should all the websites be reformatted to meet the requirements of the ubiquitous device? The answer is No, that?s totally impractical.

Huang explained that people use the Web as a resource, but increasingly it has become an application. For example, Facebook is not just a page, it is an app where 78 millions harvest crops on FarmVille every day. Facebook is the fastest growing game platform. The YouTube phenomena gets bigger and bigger. People are spending more time on the Web, most of which is only possible on a PC, a device too clunky to take everywhere. Another solution is needed that gives portability and the accessible convenience of a smartphone, but with the powerful performance and full Web compatibility of a PC. This requires smaller chips. ?It is the beginning of the tablet revolution.?

We need the power of a mobile chip that can render Web features at the resolution of a PC with the power of a cell phone. Hence, Nvidia introduces what has consumed the efforts of 500 engineers ? Tegra. Tegra is the missing link that combines all the innovations up to now.

Mike Rayfield, General Manager of Tegra Demonstrations, showed four tablets. Among them were GeForce from FoxConn with touch screen for standard-up-to-HHD movies and a tablet from msi. Notion Ink also created designs with Tegra. Its Pixel Qi transflective screen turns your book into electric ink with front or backlight to use less energy.

Mr. Huang bought Adobe to the stage. Adobe will port their AIR platform to Tegra to provide rich multi-media high resolution for magazine readers. They hope to show it at the Mobile Conference.

Tim Sweeney of video game fame was called to the stage, and introduced as the best programmer in the world. His games were praised as nothing short of a technological marvel. Looking to the current craze at CES, and its incorporation into video games, 3D was referred to as an interesting field between technology and art.

Sweeney?s company licenses engines and tools to developers who actually compete with Epic itself. When asked if the Unreal engine could be ported to a mobile device, Sweeney answered with tongue in cheek, ?We might be able to do that.? The Playstation engine runs on Tegra, not just mobile, but mobile HD.
Epic has used every Nvidia chip over sixteen years of their partnership. Sweeney said that content developers can use the same tools for console, PC and mobile, and automobile. Mobile is not behind anymore. Content developers can use the same tools for console, pc automobile. Mobile platforms and PC?s will move in lock step. The same tools same technology same experience. Mobile and pc will move in lock step.

Games, videos, book readers are all appearing in the form factor of a tablet, but not to replace PC?s which are far superior in input, according to Huang. It?s just that the pieces have come together.?It?s the beginning of tablet revolution,? Huang said. Nvidia is building Tegra computers in conjunction with Asus, Compaq, msi, and others. Huang says there are 50 designs in flight.

Huang then welcomed the auto as the latest member of mobile computer family, ?the only one with wheels.? It is a new category of mobile computers. Audi?s chief architect of the man-machine interface , Mathias Halliger, joined Huang to talk about the considerations of putting computing power into an automobile.
He spoke of how hidden computers within the vehicle makes functions more useful. Audi has 90-100 computers running in the car. They needed to reduce that extra weight. They needed huge computing power, but a large computer consumes power, causes heat problems, reduces gas mileage. They also needed to adapt PC technology that could handle minus 40 degrees to 100 degrees Celsius. A PC wouldn?t handle those conditions. Something oriented to a mobile device works better. Halliger proclaimed that Audi cars will be powered by Nvidia graphics technology.

 However, the big story is the entertainment system. Halliger?s task was to integrate functions into something that was easy to use. Since the driver?s main function is to drive, they must focus on the road. Audi worked on a visual representation to simplify interaction, so the driver isn?t distracted. The Audi Multiple Media Interface (MMI)  was designed with that in mind. Huang, who garners more than $400,000 a year and certainly can afford one, asked if the MMI will be part of Lamborghini.  German responded, ?yes, fast computers for fast cars.? 

Audi?s system operates with soft and function keys in the console, with a touch pad. Your hands can remain on the wheel while operating a subset of controls. The two screen display has one in the dash near the speedometer, considering that the driver?s eyes should remain on the horizon right near the windshield. The console display closes when not in use and blends with the beautiful Audi interior design. The new navigation abilities are connected with Google. Halliger says there is no PC hidden the trunk, there is no trick. It is all about mobile technology. Huang and Halliger sat in the car and demo?d the interface while we watched from the ?rear seat? on the large video screen set up for audience viewing throughout the entire Tegra presentation.

Of course, no presentation at CES this year is complete without 3D which they say will be the next leap in video games. Nvidia offers 3D Vision in a kit, and we were entertained with a 3D presentation complete with glasses. 3D takes a flat screen and tricks it into thinking it has depth, with objects coming out of it. To make that happen the software has to determine an image for the right and which was contrived for the left eye. The LCD has to sync with the GPU and the shutter glasses that come with the  kit.

Nvidia worked in association with Ubisoft and the Avatar  game ($56.99 at Amazon on Xbox 360).  With Nvidia?s 3D Vision, you can turn your own PC into a stunning experience. It is a combination of high-tech wireless glasses and advanced software which automatically transforms  PC games into full stereoscopic 3D. You can also see movies and digital photographs in full HD 1080P. Acer LCD?s offer this new technology. 3D Vision is standard with AsusTek, msi and Lenevo. It will become a must for next generation gaming.  Nvidia has done a lot to proliferate 3D content with developers.

The entire press conference was professionally accomplished, driven by the CEO himself. His warmth towards, and pride in, his company?s partners was evident. The set up enabled those of us unlucky enough to grab a seat in the upper balcony to clearly see the entire presentation. Huang ?posed? the demonstration units in his hand for a close up shot that was projected onto the huge video screen. This was a press conference meant to inform, awe, and win the hearts of the journalists.  So far, it has been the best presentation this reporter has attended.

What happens at CES affects our financial news. Nvidia trades as NVDA on NASDAQ saw its stock price go up a few pennies following their announcements at CES.