San Francisco: Intel has revealed details of a new generation of chips designed for video game lovers, multi-taskers, and people who want power-sipping computers adapted to increasingly mobile lifestyles.
The world’s largest chip maker provided a glimpse of a “multi-core” computer processing technology codenamed “Larrabee” that it plans to showcase next week at an industry conference in Los Angeles.
Intel and rival Advanced Micro Devices already sell chips with two or four “cores,” basically the brains in processors.
Chips to handle computer game graphics
Intel is to release in 2009 or 2010 a first wave of Larrabee chips with 16 to 48 cores which will be tailored for handling computer game graphics.
Multi-core chips cut energy use and heat while speeding performance by dividing tasks between cores. Portions of programs run simultaneously in a style referred to as “parallel computing.”
Traditional single-core processors handle tasks in a linear fashion, racing from start to finish in sequence. Along with allowing faster computer game play with film quality graphics, multi-core chips are considered a boon to computer users increasingly prone to tending to multiple tasks at once.
Software research alliances with leading universities
Microsoft and Intel have software research alliances with major universities and Intel is working with the US military’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.
Intel researchers have already made an 80-core processor. “We’re quickly moving the computing industry to a many-core world,” Intel Research director Andrew Chien said at the alliance launch.
Bridging the physical with the virtual world
Chien predicts that multi-core chips will let computers “bridge the physical world with the virtual.” Predicted research breakthroughs include software enabling people’s mobile telephone to recognize faces of approaching acquaintances and whisper their names to users.
Another foreseeable application is described as voice recognition software so accurate it could be used to record witness testimony in courtroom proceedings. Intel expects Larrabee “to to kick start an industry-wide effort to create and optimize software for the dozens, hundreds and thousands of cores expected to power future computers.”
Larrabee’s initial foray into the multi-billion dollar computer graphics market will put it in an arena dominated by Nvidia and AMD, which both reportedly plan to market chips with hundreds of cores.