Real-time computing will bring a paradigm shift for both the PC and semiconductor industries, according to Ken Kutaragi, plenary speaker at the International Solid State Circuits Conference in San Francisco on Monday (Feb. 6).
"In the pursuit of reality through pixel-based technology, graphics on computer entertainment systems have reached the same level of quality as that of the latest movies," said Kutaragi, president and CEO, Sony Computer Entertainment (Tokyo). Kutaragi touted the Cell processor, which is being used in the PlayStation 3, as the means for generating high-quality natural motion for moving objects, just as "pixilation" was used to improve computer graphics.
Natural motion requires vast amounts of physics simulation. Without it, overall graphics would differ little from existing PC entertainment systems. The multicore Cell processor—developed by Sony, IBM and Toshiba—has achieved single precision floating-point calculation performance equivalent to a 200-plus-Gflop supercomputer.
Kutaragi predicted the Cell processor connected to a broadband network could eventually dominate the market. "If you follow the course of computer history, you see how the quest for constant semiconductor scaling and the equal quest for ever higher performance have led to where in 2006 a single chip such as the Cell is one-sixth the size of the original two chips brought out in 1998," said Kutaragi.
"Improving system response changes the relationship between computers and humans," said Kutaragi, citing the example of real-time computing in Formula 1 racing cars packed with sensors and processors that are monitored by a supercomputer miles from the racetrack.
Real-time network computing would require the upgrading of network bottlenecks like servers and switches. Instead Kutaragi proposed forming a Cell-based supercomputer-like server as an application server accessed by many client systems. By incorporating Cell processors, real-time responsiveness could be secured by exchanging only a small number of objects.
Kutaragi noted that the "location-free" concept enables users to access their home terminal via the Internet. "By expanding this concept, it will also become possible to access computer entertainment systems in the home, from mobile clients, in real-time," he said. Thus, mobile clients become a remote display and interface for PC entertainment systems. "Computer entertainment systems and applications are now leading this trend," said Kutaragi.