Nvidia has stirred things up in Las Vegas before the International CES 2014 has even officially begun with a new announcement that encompasses everything from gaming to cars.
Not content to lead the PC graphics space, Nvidia announced three major new products aimed at extending the company's dominance to all gaming, mobile computing, and even the car you drive.
The first has to do with developments in next-gen gaming, where Nvidia has continued to open up the gaming experience to more devices with GameStream, an expansion of the game streaming technology showcased in the Nvidia Shield. In an on-stage demo, the Nvidia Shield was shown streaming wirelessly from a gaming PC to the mobile Nvidia Shield $249.99 (£152) at Amazon, which was then outputting the game at 1080p to an HDTV. In this setup, Nvidia demonstrated the streaming tech with a gameplay demo from Batman: Arkham Origins.
But the real demo came next, as the game was stopped, and then resumed streaming through Nvidia's GRID Servers, which are located in France. Over 6,000 miles away, the device picked up the game right where it left off, playing relatively smoothly at 720p on the mobile handheld.
While this is news in the development of Nvidia Shield, the GeForce line of gaming-grade discrete graphics cards is also gaining GameStream technology, bringing the capability to an exponentially larger market of gamers.
Gamers will also begin to see G-Sync showing up in GeForec GPUs (as well as monitors from several top manufacturers), which offers synchronisation between the GPU and the frame being rendered, allowing smoother gameplay without any of the stuttering seen with the previous V-Sync optimisation, or the tearing seen with no syncing at all. G-Sync technology will begin appearing in Q2 in monitors from Acer, AOC, Asus, BenQ, Phillips, and ViewSonic.
Last but not least, the updated GeForce line will also feature enhanced video capture and streaming, for use with services like TwitchTV. The new video straming capability offers full capture during gameplay, with live streaming, all without any loss in framerates.
Chips leap forward
The next major announcement is the arrival of Nvidia's newest Tegra processor. While many anticipated an 8- or 12-core update to the previous quad-core Tegra 4, the new Tegra, dubbed the Tegra K1, features 192 Cuda Cores and Kepler architecture, making the new Tegra a mobile CPU that can run 64-bit V8 ARM on Android, and opening up the possibility of bringing mobile computing to levels currently thought of as exclusive to full-sized PCs.
The new processor is already in preproduction, and an extensive series of demos showed off the new CPU's chops. Because it's Nvidia, most of these demos had a gaming and graphics focus, showing off photorealistic real-time renders done on the Tegra K1 that match the sort of graphics seen on high-performance gaming PCs.
In one demo, a photorealistic head (named Eli) was shown. The digital model's bald head gleamed like real skin under lights, with reddish transparence as light filtered through his ears from behind, and even a subtle sheen of moisture on his eyeballs. It's the sort of eerie uncanny-valley type rendering seen on full-blown gaming rigs, but seeing on a mobile device was impressive. Regarding the Tegra K1, Nvidia chief Jen-Hsun Huang said it was "probably the most ambitious project we have ever worked on."
To ramp things up further, it was announced that Unreal Engine 4 will also be coming to the Tegra K1, opening up the possibility for game devs to develop games across PC and mobile devices simultaneously, with similar graphics capabilities for each.
The combination of the processor's raw horsepower and the impressive capabilities of Unreal Engine 4 were demonstrated in a series of scenarios highlighting particle rendering, global illumination, and photorealistic textures - visual capabilities not out of place on a high-end gaming rig, but frankly jaw-dropping on a mobile device.
The Tegra K1 will be available in not one, but two variations. The first utilises a quad-core ARM Cortex A15 CPU for 32-bit functioning.
The second uses Nvidia's own "Denver" Super-Core CPU for 64-bit performance. The first A15-powered chips will be available in the first half of this year, with the 64-bit version coming in the second half of 2014.
Cars with Nvidia
Finally, mobile devices and gaming aren't Nvidia's only focus. The company has long offered advanced imaging tools for designers and engineers in the workstation GPUs used to engineer and simulate vehicles and tweak designs. Nvidia's next frontier for the auto industry is to use real-time rendering in marketing and sales, with the ability to pick and choose paint jobs, grills, upholstery and other elements, and to see them instantly in photorealistic form.
But Nvidia's real push in the automotive world is actually inside the vehicles themselves, with a module built around the Tegra K1, called the Tegra K1 VCM. The K1-for-Cars module is meant to bring the flexibility of a programmable processor to an automotive industry that largely relies on impenetrable black boxes. With the option of updating systems over time, new features like Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) can evolve simple features like object detection and collision avoidance into something more akin to an "autopilot for cars."
The graphics horsepower of the Tegra K1 VCM was also on display with new tools for digital dash displays, using a new tool from Nvidia called Project Mercury. This collection of rendering and customisation tools allow car manufacturers to create highly detailed and realistic gauges and readouts, rendered with Nvidia's virtual materials and photrealistic imaging.
Image: Flickr (TaylaLyell1979)