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How to power the immersive computing era: AMD CTO

AvantiKumar | Aug. 30, 2016
AMD's Mark Papermaster said VR has been made possible by advancements in semiconductor technology.

mark-papermaster- AMD 

Photo - Mark Papermaster, CTO, AMD


Developments such as VR (virtual reality) have only been made possible to due advancements in semiconductor technology, according to semiconudctor manufacturer AMD.

AMD's chief technology officer Mark Papermaster said to Computerworld Malaysia that a GPU and CPU combination was now needed to power next era of computing.

"Now even as we stand on the brink of a new era of computing, we understand that we have gone through a number of evolutionary phases," said Papermaster.

The first era was centralised computing, dominated by IBM mainframes, he said. "The next era was the start of personal computing as desktop computing went mainstream in the early 1980's. The most current era is mobile computing, driven by the fact that processors and sensors are reducing in size and becoming increasingly embedded in a plethora of devices."

"Today, society not only accepts and uses mobile technology, but it has become part of the fabric of our daily lives. From VR and smart homes, to autonomous cars - there seems to be no limit to what is possible and where the technology can be embedded," said Papermaster.

"In January of this year, Klaus Schwab, founder of the World Economic Forum, stated that we stand on the brink of a technological revolution. He said that the speed of current breakthroughs has no historical precedent and it's expanding at an exponential rate," said Papermaster, also agreeing with that point of view.

Beyond Virtual Reality

 "We are in an age where devices are almost all connected and have multiple sensors to enable contextual awareness," he said. "Voice and image recognition capabilities are becoming increasingly accurate. Graphics rendering and ultra-high resolution displays are creating near mirror-like visualisations. And rapid advancement and adoption of open source software is speeding up application development."

"All these drivers combined point towards an immersive computing era," said Papermaster. "This era will be characterised by fully networked connections among people, processes and data, changing how we interact with people and technology, and how we learn, work and play. We will be immersed in computational power and intelligence."

"Technology will surround us and become even more pervasive in our daily lives. Technology will interact with us in ways we're only starting to imagine. Virtual Reality is a great example," he said.
A number of technology watchers predict VR will dramatically change education and the landscape of many industries ranging from retail to military, healthcare to entertainment, and gaming to fashion, said Papermaster. .
"Recent estimates suggest the market for VR will reach US$80 billion by 2025," he said. "Regardless of the market size, examples of the possibilities already exist. Imagine being able to learn history by being fully immersed in recreations of actual events, but my favourite is the Royal London Hospital, which captured a tumour surgery with 360 degree cameras, as part of a programme designed to educate medical students and the public at large about surgical training. The lead physician believes VR could make healthcare more equitable, improving surgeon training worldwide."
"As exciting as VR is, it's possible that augmented reality (AR) has even greater potential. AR combines VR with a real world overlay to create what is referred to as mixed reality, spanning the experiential space between the real environment and a fully virtual reality," he added.

Moore's Law

"With such exciting potential of what technology could deliver, we often forget that developments such as VR has only been made possible to due advancements in semiconductor technology," said Papermaster.

"We have seen vast improvements in energy efficiency and increased processing power - along with increasingly immersive graphics and display technologies," he said.

However, Paperman said there were key challenges the silicon industry must face. 

"Ever since the rise of personal computing, product developers benefited from a robust Moore's Law effect that saw doubled compute capability every 18 to 24 months at the same power and cost envelope. These gains allowed PC capability to grow rapidly during this period, and simultaneous gains in efficiency enabled low-power devices, defining the growth for the mobile computing era we see today," he said.

"While Moore's law is still relevant, it has slowed," Paperman said. "Semiconductor node improvements are becoming further spread in time with more mask levels and higher cost. We have seen in recent years that it takes a combination of architectural design, and innovative technology to stay on the same advancement rate of functionality."

"While we seek to power new experiences and innovations in this immersive computing era, I believe we will be looking at what I call Moore's Law Plus. This is the notion that, if the silicon industry is to maintain an exponential rate of performance and cost improvement, firms must take creative engineering approaches," he said.

"In my view, the world of Moore's Law Plus will require the combination of CPU for computation, GPU for both compute and visualisation, and other accelerators to power the immersive computing era. These computation engines will be integrated with novel packaging technologies enabling them to work efficiently together," said Papermaster.

Immersive Computing

"We are at the start of an immersive computing era, where technological advancements will happen faster than ever before and on a larger scale. The world as we know it today will change dramatically," he said.

"Fundamental building blocks for this are advanced, high performance, low energy computing power and visualisation," Paperman said.

"These elements are here now and improving rapidly. It's still early days for immersive computing, with first generation products today analogous to the first smartphones. The initial products were cool and useful, but no one imagined they would become items many of us can't live without and completely transformed the mobile market, giving rise to entirely new applications and services," he said.


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