Friday, October 5, 2007

Toshiba Shows Off Spurs Engine Capabilities

In order to demonstrate capabilities of its SpursEngine processor, Toshiba exhibited its Qosmio notebook with special FaceMation application installed at CEATEC exhibition in
Japan. As expected, the new chip can easily perform geometry morphing and other operations given that it features four processing engines.

The FaceMation application by Toshiba can create a 3D model of a face and then perform various transformations with it as well as with hair. When face morphing and other operations rely on software, Toshiba Qosmio notebook powered by dual-core Intel Core 2 Duo processor was loaded by 80% while only rendering at 16 frames per second speed. When the same task was carried out by Toshiba SpursEngine, rendering speed rose to 30fps, whereas CPU load was 30%, according to a news-story at PC Watch web-site.

The SpursEngine can also unload decoding and encoding of MPEG-2 and H.264 from CPU, whereas synergetic processing engines (SPEs) can detect user’s motion commands, e.g. “stop playback”.

SpursEngine is a co-processor that integrates four of Cell high-performance RISC core SPEs, half the number of the full configuration, hardware dedicated to decoding and encoding of MPEG-2 and H.264 video, XDR memory interface as well as PCI Express interface. By combining the high level, real time processing software of the SPEs with the hardware video codecs, the SpursEngine realizes an optimized balance of processing flexibility and low power consumption. The prototype of SpursEngine operates at a clock frequency of 1.5GHz and consumes power at 10W to 20W.

Spurs Engine can be used in both consumer electronics and computer applications. For example, in the PC space it could process graphics or physics. Nevertheless, considering that four SPEs can offer tangible advantages over dual-core x86 chips, but would hardly rival contemporary graphics processors that feature 64 – 128 or even more processing engines, Toshiba’s new development will hardly find home in general-purpose PCs.

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