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GTC 2013: Nvidia CUDA Enables Richer Experiences on Mobile

During GTC 2013 in San Jose, Neil Trevett, VP of Mobile Content at Nvidia, spent around thirty minutes explaining why mobile devices can benefit from GPU computing. He started off with an example of an augmented reality app that simply adds information in real-time in an overlay. What it can't do is create objects in 3D – and in real time – within the physical space.

But a Tegra 4-powered notebook can thanks to CUDA. In the next example, he showed a refractive virtual glass sitting on an actual table. It looked real enough to hold – a correct refraction of the hand in the glass was obtained by using a reprojection method. Thus GPU compute can bring high-quality reflections, refractions and caustics to augmented reality apps offered on Tegra-based devices.

"The application is using the inherent processing power of the GPU so that it's anti-aliasing to really up the quality of the scene," he said. "The caustic reflections are all being generated in real-time using a quite sophisticated CUDA program."

He then went on to recap what was revealed in the keynote, that Tegra 4 devices are shipping this year while silicon samples of the Keplar-packed "Logan" are being distributed to device makers. He said the full quality robust drivers Nvidia has been working on for many years on the desktop will be made available for Tegra as well including CUDA 5.0 and OpenGL 4.3.

"So all the graphics and compute functionality we've been using through the desktop APIs will be made available on Tegra platforms," he said. Trevett added that after Logan claws into mobile devices, Parker will swing into action, based on a 64-bit Denver CPU and a Maxwell GPU which provides shared virtual memory between CPUs and CPUs.

Obviously on the mobile front, cramming all this power into an SoC is great for the mobile gamer. But you also have to consider power consumption as well. He said the "process fairy" is giving device makers more wonderful transistors to provide performance, but not in a low-power way.

"The key problem is that the leakage voltage has reached a point where you can't reduce the threshold voltage any further," he said. "So in the good old days, you halved the geometry, you get four times the number of transistors and the frequency would double, but the voltage would half so your power would stay the same. Now we can't reduce the voltage because of leakage, and so we can have the four times number of transistors with a half process shrink, but we have to suffer four times the power."

So how do you build chips to deliver the level of performance developers need in a mobile environment in the existing power envelope? Form factors will always be locked in their strict power envelopes no matter how battery technology improves – go over that limit and devices get too hot to use. A 4- to 5-inch screen has a thermal envelope ranging between 2W and 4W whereas a 10-inch tablet ranges between 6W to 10W (the screen itself takes between 1W and 2W).

To deliver GPU Compute within these power budgets, you need to reduce data movement across the silicon. "We've reached a point with the next two generations of silicon where we can put down more transistors on a die than we can afford to turn on at the same time. If we turned on all possible transistors on an SoC, we will exceed the thermal envelope. So now we have this concept of dark silicon where there is silicon that's not being utilized all the time. But you can put down gates – dedicated hardware blocks – that will be used when they need it and at no other time."

Thus dedicated hardware units can increase locality and parallelism of computation, thereby reducing power consumption while boosting performance. He said mobile SoCs will now begin to mix and match CPUs, GPUs and dedicated hardware, meaning in certain applications, the software will be taken off the CPU and dumped on the GPU, and in certain specialized situations, dumped onto the previously unused hardware as well.

 Naturally all of this talk of SoC design builds the foundation upon which GPU Compute is made possible. On a mobile device, GPU Compute will allow for computational photography (real-time HDR processing and more), face, body and gesture tracking, 3D scene and object reconstruction, and richer augmented reality experiences. Naturally Nvidia is using the conference to pool additional ideas from developers.

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  • redeemer
    Tegra news and innovations are always interesting to read about, however the actual products at least thus far have been disappointing. Samsung and Qualcomm will continue to dominate the mobile space for a very long time.
    Reply
  • blazorthon
    redeemerTegra news and innovations are always interesting to read about, however the actual products at least thus far have been disappointing. Samsung and Qualcomm will continue to dominate the mobile space for a very long time.
    I wouldn't be so sure. Tegra 4 and more are looking like Nvidia is really getting serious.
    Reply
  • pogsnet
    Tegra can't even beat Apple's ARM processor
    Reply
  • redeemer
    blazorthonI wouldn't be so sure. Tegra 4 and more are looking like Nvidia is really getting serious.

    That's fine they can be very serious the question is will the market space take them serious?
    Reply
  • blazorthon
    10530345 said:
    blazorthonI wouldn't be so sure. Tegra 4 and more are looking like Nvidia is really getting serious.

    That's fine they can be very serious the question is will the market space take them serious?

    It might be too late for Nvidia to really get anywhere after how bad Tegra and Tegra 2 were along with how mediocre Tegra 3 was. Tegra 4 doesn't seem to be getting much promised adoption yet, but it's competitors seem to be getting plenty, especially Qualcomm's Snapdragon 600. However, that may change once things get closer to and beyond launch date. We'll have to wait and see.
    Reply
  • redeemer
    Manufacturers are not interested in Nvidia for the mobile space, maybe that will change who knows?

    http://semiaccurate.com/2013/02/18/nvidias-telegraphs-tegras-woes-at-ces/#.UUpO9l9zZaQ
    Reply
  • slabbo
    Seems like Nvidia is all marketing now and less R&D. They constantly hype up their products and rarely deliver anything of value.
    Reply
  • mayankleoboy1
    He then went on to recap what was revealed in the keynote, that Tegra 4 devices are shipping this year while silicon samples of the Keplar-packed "Logan" are being distributed to device makers

    which probably means that Logan is still on 28nm .
    Reply
  • theqnology
    Do remember when the Tegra products were released, they were the fastest of the bunch, though adoption was quite slow so that when they eventually hit the market, they were already on par or were overtaken. Similar thing happened to the Windows Phone 7 actually, when it did hit the US market, 7.5 was already looming around the corner.

    That said, Tegra4 has addressed previous Tegra products' main bottleneck, which was the memory, being single channel. Here's to hoping for more good things to come, which is always a win for consumers.
    Reply
  • aggroboy
    blazorthonI wouldn't be so sure. Tegra 4 and more are looking like Nvidia is really getting serious.They looked just as serious when presenting the previous Tegras. Time will tell if Tegra4 can finally supersede the likes of Snapdragon Adreno.
    Reply