Hooked on a Feeling

April 12, 2016

Here we are, Stuart Heptonstall, our product manager for graphics, and I, still at the NVIDIA GPU Technology Conference (GTC) at the San Jose Convention Center.

Last evening’s session went really well, and the two hours once again went by in a flash. Abaco is one of the few primarily mil/aero companies exhibiting at the show and we made sure to put some sufficiently tough looking systems at the corner of the booth to catch folks’ eye. There’s a world of difference, given the incredibly harsh environments in which the world’s armed forces want to deploy graphics capability and what the typical gamer needs from NVIDIA’s technology, and that’s the value we at Abaco add—our expertise and experience in creating truly rugged solutions that will withstand the rigors of combat in hostile environments. As a result, we had large numbers of engineers from large defense OEMs stop by for a chat and to partake of any individually wrapped candy that Stuart and I hadn’t already eaten.

As well as the tough looking systems (including our rather cool RES3000 rugged Ethernet switch), we’re showing off our new 3U VPX GRA113 NVIDIA graphics card and some video streaming/windowing/recording code we put together for the Tegra K1 and Tegra X1. We have a white paper called “GStreamer Optimized Multimedia Processing for Audio and Video” on our website that describes our approach in more detail. Either register (which I’d recommend by the way; there’s a bunch of white papers and information already on there and we’re working on a ton of new content) or email me directly and I will send it over.

The other big announcements from NVIDIA yesterday concerned VR (virtual reality). I guess I had three takeaways from these. The first was I really liked their new Iray VR package. It allows photorealistic VR to be generated in real time for professional applications like car design or architecture. We were shown a quick demo in the keynote where it seemed we were standing in, and could look around, NVIDIA’s proposed new headquarters. Very nice.

The second was that VR means that video latency (the time taken from an event actually happening to that event being shown on a screen) is something that the commercial industry is looking at seriously and this could have some implications for mil/aero. Over the last few years, we’ve seen technology move from “absolute performance is king” to “performance per Watt is king” as folks move from desktop to mobile. This has had considerable implications on the rugged embedded computer market and I think VR will do the same.

Thirdly, I’d say the immersive world of Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One is getting significantly closer. Whether you think that’s a good thing or not is your own opinion, but there’s no way VR is going to be any less addictive than TV or Facetiming or social media in a few years. I just hope we remember to open up our curtains and see real stuff like this.

Finally, yesterday’s appearance by Steve “Woz” Wozniak at the keynote prompted a strange, interesting and occasionally heated discussion after the show about whether Chucky Egg or Manic Miner was the best 80s Speccie platformer. I’d be interested in your comments (see below) on this contentious issue. While Chucky Egg had excellent playability, Manic Miner and its sequel Jet Set Willy changed British gaming. So, Stuart, you’re wrong. And if you’re under 40 or not from the UK, please ignore this paragraph.

About the Author

Nick Porter

Nick has been selling embedded computing solutions to military/aerospace customers for over 20 years. Initially working as a government research scientist and gaining a PhD in radar signal processing, Nick's move to the dark side was prompted by the promise of a company car. He soon discovered how fun it was to solve customers’ problems and to progress a scribbled whiteboard design into a real fielded program. He also likes cats.

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