Tobii and Qualcomm Announce Collaboration on Mobile VR Headsets with Eye-Tracking

Subject: General Tech | March 16, 2018 - 09:45 AM |
Tagged: xr, VR, Tobii, snapdragon 845, qualcomm, mobile, HMD, head mounted display, eye tracking, AR, Adreno 630

Tobii and Qualcomm's collaboration in the VR HMD (head-mounted display) space is a convergence of two recent stories, with Tobii's impressing showing of a prototype HMD device at CES featuring their eye-tracking technology, and Qualcomm's unvieling last month of their updated mobile VR platform, featuring the new Snapdragon 845.

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The Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 Mobile VR Reference Platform

What does this new collaboration mean for the VR industry? For now it means a new reference design and dev kit with the latest tech from Tobii and Qualcomm:

"As a result of their collaboration, Tobii and Qualcomm are creating a full reference design and development kit for the Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 Mobile VR Platform, which includes Tobii's EyeCore eye tracking algorithms and hardware design. Tobii will license its eye tracking technologies and system and collaborate with HMD manufacturers on the optical solution for the reference design."

The press release announcing this collaboration recaps the benefits of Tobii eye tracking in a mobile VR/AR device, which include:

  • Foveated Rendering: VR/AR devices become aware of where you are looking and can direct high-definition graphics processing power to that exact spot in real time. This enables higher definition displays, more efficient devices, longer battery life and increased mobility.
  • Interpupillary Distance: Devices automatically orient images to align with your pupils. This enables devices to adapt to the individual user, helping to increase the visual quality of virtual and augmented reality experiences.
  • Hand-Eye Coordination: By using your eyes in harmony with your hands and associated controllers, truly natural interaction and immersion, not possible without the use of gaze, is realized.
  • Interactive Eye Contact: Devices can accurately track your gaze in real time, enabling content creators to express one of the most fundamental dimensions of human interaction – eye contact. VR technologies hold the promise of enabling a new and immersive medium for social interaction. The addition of true eye contact to virtual reality helps deliver that promise.

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Tobii's prototype eye-tracking HMD

For its part, Qualcomm's Snapdragon 845-powered VR mobile platform promises greater portability of a better VR experience, with expanded freedom on top of the improved graphics horsepower from the new Adreno 630 GPU in the Snapdragon 845. This portability includes 6DoF (6 degrees of freedom) using external cameras to identify location within a room, eliminating the need for external room sensors.

"Together, 6DoF and SLAM deliver Roomscale - the ability to track the body and location within a room so you can freely walk around your XR environment without cables or separate room sensors – the first on a mobile standalone device. Much of this is processed on the new dedicated Qualcomm Hexagon Digital Signal Processor (DSP) and Adreno Graphics Processing Unit within the Snapdragon 845. Qualcomm Technologies’ reference designs have supported some of the first wave of standalone VR devices from VR ecosystem leaders like Google Daydream, Oculus and Vive."

It is up to developers, and consumer interest in VR moving forward, to see what this collaboration will produce. To editorialize briefly, from first-hand experience I can vouch for the positive impact of eye-tracking with an HMD, and if future products live up to the promise of a portable, high-performance VR experience (with a more natural feel from less rapid head movement) a new generation of VR enthusiasts could be born.

Source: PR Newswire

MWC 2018: Samsung Unpacks Galaxy S9 and S9+ Phones

Subject: Mobile | February 25, 2018 - 03:24 PM |
Tagged: snapdragon 845, smartphone, Samsung, MWC 2018, MWC, mobile, Galaxy S9+, galaxy s9, exynos

Samsung unveiled their not-so-secret Galaxy S9 and S9+ smartphones at their 'unpacked' event at MWC today, coming after months of leaks and an accidental post of the launch video yesterday. So, while the existence of these new Galaxy phones was a foregone conclusion, does the final product meet expectations?

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As previously leaked, the design of the Galaxy S9/S9+ is carried over from last year, as Samsung is updating their lineup in the manner of Apple's second-year iPhone "S" refresh. What we have are devices with faster internals courtesy of the Snapdragon 845 in the U.S. and China (read our performance preview of the 845 here), Samsung's Exynos 9810 Octa in the rest of the world, and improved cameras - the latter of which was the focus of the event (sorry).

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The newest term in the smartphone space is "dual iris" thanks to Samsung's adoption of an adjustable iris on one of the dual 12MP rear cameras, which moves from f1.5 to f2.4 based on light level (the second camera is fixed at f2.4). This should result in much better exposures in low light without sacrificing daylight performance. But as vital as still camera quality is on mobile phones, as for so many is has replaced the need for a dedicated point-and-shoot, there is also video to consider. And not just any video.

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Water bottle antics from Samsung's slo-mo demonstration video

Much was made during the event of the Galaxy S9/S9+ exclusive "Super Slow-mo", which takes just 0.2 seconds of video and produces 6 seconds of the sort of slow motion you never knew you couldn't live without before seeing it...in slow motion. (Some impressively slow cat videos were also shown during the event, as well as popcorn being thrown... AND MORE.) Regardless of the usefulness of capturing 0.2 seconds of action at 960 FPS (in HD, no less) - which you can do up to 20 times per video - these slo-mo treasures can be exported right from the phone in GIF format! (Expect uploads of such videos to fill your social feeds later this spring.)

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From a design standpoint we are not seeing a new device, but that is not a bad thing in this case. Fans would always like to see the next big thing, of course, but the S8 was already an advanced design when it launched a year ago, marking the start of the all-display trend that Apple joined later on with the iPhone X. Speaking of displays, we know that Samsung has a killer screen already with the Galaxy S8/S8+, and on paper the S9/S9+ have identical 5.8-inch, 1440x2960 18.5:9 aspect AMOLED with the S9 and slightly larger 6.2 inches of the same on the S9+, both still covered in Gorilla Glass 5.

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Samsung's cluster of camera and iris scanning tech is hidden from view

Two obvious nods to Apple's confusingly-named "X" handset were also introduced by Samsung, with both face/iris unlocking and animated emojis. First, it will be possible to unlock your Galaxy S9/S9+ by looking at it, but have no fear as the fingerprint reader remains - and is no longer next to the camera sensor on the back!

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The fingerprint scanner is now below the camera sensors

Far more important, as everyone knows: animated emoji. Animoji is not the only facial-recognition-powered animated emoji game in town anymore, though Samsung's implementation of this is a little different since it is creating an avatar based on your own face, which you can then customize. The result is something possibly a little more realistic than an early 2000s sports game create-a-player, but with considerably less work. Progress!

March 16 is the release date for both the Galaxy S9 and S9+, with retail prices starting at $719.99 for the S9 and $839.99 for the S9+. Pre-orders are up now on Samsung's official web store.

Source: Samsung

Qualcomm Announces Snapdragon 845 Mobile VR Reference Platform

Subject: General Tech | February 21, 2018 - 07:50 PM |
Tagged: VR, snapdragon 845, reference platform, qualcomm, mobile, headset, development

Qualcomm has another mobile-related announcement ahead of MWC, introducing a new VR reference platform based on the Snapdragon 845 in collaboration with HTC. As the new Snapdragon 845 boasts much more powerful graphics from its Adreno 630 GPU compared to the Snapdragon 835 - which was behind the previous mobile VR platform - this represents an important step forward in the mobile VR space.

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The increased graphics horsepower isn't the only aspect of the Adreno 630 that should translate into a better mobile VR/AR (now rolled together into the term "XR" for extended reality) experience, as the gains in graphics performance we saw from the SDM845 reference platform are said to come with 30% power savings as well as Adreno Foveation, which allows eye-tracking to direct resources only to the area where the user is looking. Thus Foveation allows for, literally, focused GPU resource allocation, which should translate into better performance with less hardware overhead.

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The Snapdragon 845 Mobile VR Platform also boasts 6DoF, or "6 degrees of freedom", which incorporates external cameras to improve free movement compared to the previous 3DoF limitations:

"Together, 6DoF and SLAM deliver Roomscale - the ability to track the body and location within a room so you can freely walk around your XR environment without cables or separate room sensors – the first on a mobile standalone device. Much of this is processed on the new dedicated Qualcomm Hexagon Digital Signal Processor (DSP) and Adreno Graphics Processing Unit within the Snapdragon 845. Qualcomm Technologies’ reference designs have supported some of the first wave of standalone VR devices from VR ecosystem leaders like Google Daydream, Oculus and Vive."

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Qualcomm's goal with the new Snapdragon 845 Mobile VR Platform is to support "the next wave of smartphone and standalone VR headsets", and it seems that mobile hardware is starting to catch up to the ambitions of what is now being called XR.

Source: Qualcomm

The SDM845 Reference Platform and CPU Results

The Snapdragon 845 is Qualcomm’s latest flagship mobile platform, officially announced on December 6 and known officially as the SDM845 (moving from the MSMxxxx nomenclature of previous iterations). At a recent media event we had a chance to go hands-on with a development platform device for a preview of this new Snapdragon's performance, the results of which we can now share. Will the Snapdragon 845 be Qualcomm's Android antidote to Apple's A11? Read on to find out!

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The SDM845 QRD (Qualcomm Reference Design) Device

While this article will focus on CPU and GPU performance with a few known benchmarks, the Snapdragon 845 is of course a full mobile platform which combines 8-core Kryo 385 CPU, Adreno 630 graphics, Hexagon 685 DSP (which includes the Snapdragon Neural Processing Engine), Spectra 280 image processor, X20 LTE modem, etc. The reference device was packaged like a typical 5.5-inch Android smartphone, which can only help to provide a real-world application of thermal management during benchmarking.


Qualcomm Reference Design Specifications:

  • Baseband Chipset: SDM845
  • Memory: 6 GB LPDDR4X (PoP)
  • Display: 5.5-inch 1440x2560
  • Camera:
    • Front: IMX320 12 MP Sensor
    • Rear: IMX386 12 MP Sensor
  • Audio:
    • No 3.5 mm headset jack (Analog over USB-C)
    • 4 Digital Microphones
  • Connector: USB 3.1 Type-C
    • DisplayPort over USB-C

At the heart of the Snapdragon 845 is the octa-core Kryo 385 CPU, configured with 4x performance cores and 4x efficiency cores, and offering clock speeds of up to 2.8 GHz. In comparison the Snapdragon 835 had a similar 8x CPU configuration (Kryo 280) clocked up to 2.45 GHz. The SDM845 is produced on 10 nm LPP process technology, while the SD835 (MSM8998) was the first to be manufactured at 10 nm (LPE). It is not surprising that Qualcomm is getting higher clock speeds from this new chip at the same process node, and increases in efficiency (the new 10nm LPP FinFET process) should theoretically result in similar - or possibly even lower - power draw from these higher clocks.

Continue reading our performance preview of the new Snapdragon 845 mobile platform!!

Intel Announces New CPUs Integrating AMD Radeon Graphics

Subject: Processors | November 6, 2017 - 02:00 PM |
Tagged: radeon, Polaris, mobile, kaby lake, interposer, Intel, HBM2, gaming, EMIB, apple, amd, 8th generation core

In what is probably considered one of the worst kept secrets in the industry, Intel has announced a new CPU line for the mobile market that integrates AMD’s Radeon graphics.  For the past year or so rumors of such a partnership were freely flowing, but now we finally get confirmation as to how this will be implemented and marketed.

Intel’s record on designing GPUs has been rather pedestrian.  While they have kept up with the competition, a slew of small issues and incompatibilities have plagued each generation.  Performance is also an issue when trying to compete with AMD’s APUs as well as discrete mobile graphics offerings from both AMD and NVIDIA.  Software and driver support is another area where Intel has been unable to compete due largely to economics and the competitions’ decades of experience in this area.

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There are many significant issues that have been solved in one fell swoop.  Intel has partnered with AMD’s Semi-Custom Group to develop a modern and competent GPU that can be closely connected to the Intel CPU all the while utilizing HBM2 memory to improve overall performance.  The packaging of this product utilizes Intel’s EMIB (Embedded Multi-die Interconnect Bridge) tech.

EMIB is an interposer-like technology that integrates silicon bridges into the PCB instead of relying upon a large interposer.  This allows a bit more flexibility in layout of the chips as well as lowers the Z height of the package as there is not a large interposer sitting between the chips and the PCB.  Just as interposer technology allows the use of chips from different process technologies to work seamlessly together, EMIB provides that same flexibility.

The GPU looks to be based on the Polaris architecture which is a slight step back from AMD’s cutting edge Vega architecture.  Polaris does not implement the Infinity Fabric component that Vega does.  It is more conventional in terms of data communication.  It is a step beyond what AMD has provided for Sony and Microsoft, who each utilize a semi-custom design for the latest console chips.  AMD is able to integrate the HBM2 controller that is featured in Vega.  Using HBM2 provides a tremendous amount of bandwidth along with power savings as compared to traditional GDDR-5 memory modules.  It also saves dramatically on PCB space allowing for smaller form factors.

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EMIB provides nearly all of the advantages of the interposer while keeping the optimal z-height of the standard PCB substrate.

Intel did have to do quite a bit of extra work on the power side of the equation.  AMD utilizes their latest Infinity Fabric for fine grained power control in their upcoming Raven Ridge based Ryzen APUs.  Intel had to modify their current hardware to be able to do much the same work with 3rd party silicon.  This is no easy task as the CPU needs to monitor and continually adjust for GPU usage in a variety of scenarios.  This type of work takes time and a lot of testing to fine tune as well as the inevitable hardware revisions to get thing to work correctly.  This then needs to be balanced by the GPU driver stack which also tends to take control of power usage in mobile scenarios.

This combination of EMIB, Intel Kaby Lake CPU, HBM2, and a current AMD GPU make this a very interesting combination for the mobile and small form factor markets.  The EMIB form factor provides very fast interconnect speeds and a smaller footprint due to the integration of HBM2 memory.  The mature AMD Radeon software stack for both Windows and macOS environments provides Intel with another feature in which to sell their parts in areas where previously they were not considered.  The 8th Gen Kaby Lake CPU provides the very latest CPU design on the new 14nm++ process for greater performance and better power efficiency.

This is one of those rare instances where such cooperation between intense rivals actually improves the situation for both.  AMD gets a financial shot in the arm by signing a large and important customer for their Semi-Custom division.  The royalty income from this partnership should be more consistent as compared to the console manufacturers due to the seasonality of the console product.  This will have a very material effect on AMD’s bottom line for years to come.  Intel gets a solid silicon solution with higher performance than they can offer, as well as aforementioned mature software stack for multiple OS.  Finally throw in the HBM2 memory support for better power efficiency and a smaller form factor, and it is a clear win for all parties involved.

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The PCB savings plus faster interconnects will allow these chips to power smaller form factors with better performance and battery life.

One of the unknowns here is what process node the GPU portion will be manufactured on.  We do not know which foundry Intel will use, or if they will stay in-house.  Currently TSMC manufactures the latest console SoCs while GLOBALFOUNDRIES handles the latest GPUS from AMD.  Initially one would expect Intel to build the GPU in house, but the current rumor is that AMD will work to produce the chips with one of their traditional foundry partners.  Once the chip is manufactured then it is sent to Intel to be integrated into their product.

Apple is one of the obvious candidates for this particular form factor and combination of parts.  Apple has a long history with Intel on the CPU side and AMD on the GPU side.  This product provides all of the solutions Apple needs to manufacture high performance products in smaller form factors.  Gaming laptops also get a boost from such a combination that will offer relatively high performance with minimal power increases as well as the smaller form factor.

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The potential (leaked) performance of the 8th Gen Intel CPU with Radeon Graphics.

The data above could very well be wrong about the potential performance of this combination.  What we see is pretty compelling though.  The Intel/AMD product performs like a higher end CPU with discrete GPU combo.  It is faster than a NVIDIA GTX 1050 Ti and trails the GTX 1060.  It also is significantly faster than a desktop AMD RX 560 part.  We can also see that it is going to be much faster than the flagship 15 watt TDP AMD Ryzen 7 2700U.  We do not yet know how it compares to the rumored 65 watt TDP Raven Ridge based APUs from AMD that will likely be released next year.  What will be fascinating here is how much power the new Intel combination will draw as compared to the discrete solutions utilizing NVIDIA graphics.

To reiterate, this is Intel as a customer for AMD’s Semi-Custom group rather than a licensing agreement between the two companies.  They are working hand in hand in developing this solution and then both profiting from it.  AMD getting royalties from every Intel package sold that features this technology will have a very positive effect on earnings.  Intel gets a cutting edge and competent graphics solution along with the improved software and driver support such a package includes.

Update: We have been informed that AMD is producing the chips and selling them directly to Intel for integration into these new SKUs. There are no royalties or licensing, but the Semi-Custom division should still receive the revenue for these specialized products made only for Intel.

Source: Intel

Huawei Announces Mate 10 and Mate 10 Pro Smartphones

Subject: Mobile | October 16, 2017 - 10:23 AM |
Tagged: SoC, smartphone, phone, Oreo, mobile, Mate 10 Pro, Mate 10, Kirin 970, Huawei, Android 8, Android

Huawei has announced the successor(s) to the Mate 9 smartphone with the new Mate 10 and Mate 10 Pro, which feature a new "3D Glass Body" industrial design along with the new Kirin 970 processor and other improvements.

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The key features from Huawei include:

  • Kirin 970, the world’s first AI processor for smartphones with a dedicated Neural Network Processing Unit (NPU)
  • A 3D Glass Body featuring a barely-there-bezel, HUAWEI FullView Display and HDR10 supported technology for intensely vivid and brighter colors
  • TÜV Fast-Charge Safety Certified HUAWEI SuperCharge and 4000 mAh battery with AI-powered Battery Management
  • New Leica Dual Camera with SUMMILUX-H lenses, with both featuring  an aperture of f/1.6, and intelligent photography including AI-powered Real-Time Scene and Object Recognition and AI-powered Bokeh Effect;
  • An all-new, simplified EMUI 8.0 based on Android 8.0

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The Mate 10 Pro features an 18:9 OLED display

The Mate 10 is a 5.9-inch device with a 16:9 IPS display supporting HDR10, while the Mate 10 Pro offers an 18:9 OLED display (also with HDR10 support).

The new dual-camera system is again a joint effort with Leica, and combines a 12 MP color sensor with a 20 MP monochrome sensor, using lenses with a aperture of f/1.6 - and Huawei says this aperture is the "world's largest" for a smartphone. The digital zoom and bokeh effects are AI-powered, along with real-time scene and object recognition.

Mate 10 Pro_Camera.jpg

The new Kirin 970 combines an 8-core CPU with a 12-core Mali-G72 GPU, and includes an NPU (neural processing unit) for AI-related tasks as well as a new dual ISP for the AI-powered camera features mentioned above.

Both phones include a 4000 mAh battery which offers "smart battery management" which Huawei states "understands user behavior and intelligently allocates resources to maximize battery life". The new TÜV-certified fast charging feature supports low-voltage charging of 4.5V / 5A, and Huawei states this will charge the phones from 1% to 20% in 10 minutes, or 1% to 58% in 30 minutes.

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The Mate 10 lineup

The Mate 10 and Mate 10 Pro ship with Android 8.0 and a new "simplified" version of Huawei's EMUI interface. Pricing and availablity for the U.S. was not revealed, but the phones will go on sale internationally starting this month for the Mate 10, and mid-November for the Mate 10 Pro.

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The Mate 10 Pro lineup

While we don't have U.S. pricing yet, European pricing for the Mate 10 with 64GB of storage and 4GB memory is set at €699, and the Mate 10 Pro with 128GB/6GB will be €799.

Source: HUAWEI
Author:
Subject: Mobile
Manufacturer: MSI

Overview

Thanks goes out to CUK, Computer Upgrade King, for supplying the MSI GS63VR notebook for our testing and evaluation

It's been a few weeks since we took a look at our first gaming notebook with NVIDIA's Max-Q design, the ASUS ROG Zephyrus. We briefly touched on the broad array of announced Max-Q Notebooks on that review, and today we are taking a look at the MSI GS63VR Stealth Pro.

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One of the first notebooks to feature the GTX 1070 with Max-Q Design, the MSI GS63VR is a more traditional notebook form factor than the GTX 1080-toting ASUS ROG Zephyrus. In fact, the GS series has been a long running line of thin-and-light gaming notebooks from MSI. What is new though is the avalability of a GTX 1070-class option in this chassis. The GS63VR previously topped out with the GTX 1060 as the highest end option.

MSI GS63VR Stealth Pro-002  (configuration as reviewed)
Processor Intel Core i7-7700HQ (Kaby Lake)
Graphics NVIDIA Geforce GTX 1070 with Max-Q Design (8GB)
Memory 32GB DDR4
Screen 15.6-in 1920x1080 120Hz
Storage

512GB Samsung PM871a M.2 SATA SSD

1TB Seagate 5400RPM HDD

Camera 1080p
Wireless Intel 8265 802.11ac (2x2) + BT 4.1
Connections

Ethernet
HDMI 2.0
3x USB 3.0
Thunderbolt 3
Mini DisplayPort
1x USB 2.0
Audio combo jack

Battery 57 Wh
Dimensions 379.98mm x 248.92mm x17.53mm (14.96" x 9.80" x 0.69")
3.96 lbs. (1792 g)
OS Windows 10 Pro
Price $2399 - Newegg.com CUKUSA

Taking a look a look at the exact notebook configuration we are testing, we find a well-equipped gaming notebook. In addition to the GTX 1070 Max-Q, we find a 35W Quad-Core mobile CPU from Intel, 32GB of system RAM, and plentiful storage options including both M.2 SSD and traditional 2.5" SATA drive configurations. This specific notebook is equipped with a SATA M.2 SSD, but this notebook will also support PCIe devices with the same M.2 port.

Continue reading our review of the MSI GS63VR Gaming Notebook!

Author:
Subject: General Tech
Manufacturer: SILVIA

Intelligent Gaming

Kal Simpson recently had the chance to sit down and have an extensive interview with SILVIA's Chief Product Officer - Cognitive Code, Alex Mayberry.  SILVIA is a company that specializes on conversational AI that can be adapted to a variety of platforms and applications.  Kal's comments are in bold while Alex's are in italics.

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Always good to speak with you Alex. Whether it's the latest Triple-A video game release or the progress being made in changing the way we play, virtual reality for instance – your views and developments within the gaming space as a whole remains impressive. Before we begin, I’d like to give the audience a brief flashback of your career history. Prominent within the video game industry you’ve been involved with many, many titles – primarily within the PC gaming space. Quake 2: The Reckoning, America’s Army, a plethora of World of Warcraft titles.

Those more familiar with your work know you as the lead game producer for Diablo 3 / Reaper of Souls, as well as the executive producer for Star Citizen. The former of which we spoke on during the release of the game for PC, PlayStation 4 and the Xbox One, back in 2014.

So I ask, given your huge involvement with some of the most popular titles, what sparked your interest within the development of intelligent computing platforms? No-doubt the technology can be adapted to applications within gaming, but what’s the initial factor that drove you to Cognitive Code – the SILVIA technology?

AM: Conversational intelligence was something that I had never even thought about in terms of game development. My experience arguing with my Xbox and trying to get it to change my television channel left me pretty sceptical about the technology. But after leaving Star Citizen, my paths crossed with Leslie Spring, the CEO and Founder of Cognitive Code, and the creator of the SILVIA platform. Initially, Leslie was helping me out with some engineering work on VR projects I was spinning up. After collaborating for a bit, he introduced me to his AI, and I became intrigued by it. Although I was still very focused on VR at the time, my mind kept drifting to SILVIA.

I kept pestering Leslie with questions about the technology, and he continued to share some of the things that it could do. It was when I saw one of his game engine demos showing off a sci-fi world with freely conversant robots that the light went on in my head, and I suddenly got way more interested in artificial intelligence. At the same time, I was discovering challenges in VR that needed solutions. Not having a keyboard in VR creates an obstacle for capturing user input, and floating text in your field of view is really detrimental to the immersion of the experience. Also, when you have life-size characters in VR, you naturally want to speak to them. This is when I got interested in using SILVIA to introduce an entirely new mechanic to gaming and interactive entertainment. No more do we have to rely on conversation trees and scripted responses.

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No more do we have to read a wall of text from a quest giver. With this technology, we can have a realistic and free-form conversation with our game characters, and speak to them as if they are alive. This is such a powerful tool for interactive storytelling, and it will allow us to breathe life into virtual characters in a way that’s never before been possible. Seeing the opportunity in front of me, I joined up with Cognitive Code and have spent the last 18 months exploring how to design conversationally intelligent avatars. And I’ve been having a blast doing it.

Click here to continue reading the entire interview!

Subject: Mobile
Manufacturer: ASUS

Introduction and Specifications

The ZenBook 3 UX390UA is a 12.5-inch thin-and-light which offers a 1920x1080 IPS display, choice of 7th-generation Intel Core i5 or Core i7 processors, 16GB of DDR4 memory, and a roomy 512GB PCIe SSD. It also features just a single USB Type-C port, eschewing additional I/O in the vein of recent Apple MacBooks (more on this trend later in the review). How does it stack up? I had the pleasure of using it for a few weeks and can offer my own usage impressions (along with those ever-popular benchmark numbers) to try answering that question.

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A thin-and-light (a.k.a. ‘Ultrabook’) is certainly an attractive option when it comes to portability, and the ZenBook 3 certainly delivers with a slim 0.5-inch thickness and 2 lb weight from its aluminum frame. Another aspect of thin-and-light designs are the typically low-power processors, though the “U” series in Intel’s 7th-generation processor lineup still offer good performance numbers for portable machines. Looking at the spec sheet it is clear that ASUS paid attention to performance with this ZenBook, and we will see later on if a good balance has been struck between performance and battery life.

Our review unit was equipped with a Core i7-7500U processor, a 2-core/4-thread part with a 15W TDP and speeds ranging from 2.70 - 3.50 GHz, along with the above-mentioned 16GB of RAM and 512GB SSD. With an MSRP of $1599 for this configuration it faces some stiff competition from the likes of the Dell XPS line and recent Lenovo ThinkPad and Apple MacBook offerings, though it can of course be found for less than its MSRP (and this configuration currently sells on Amazon for about $1499). The ZenBook 3 certainly offers style if you are into blade-like aluminum designs, and, while not a touchscreen, nothing short of Gorilla Glass 4 was employed to protect the LCD display.

“ZenBook 3’s design took some serious engineering prowess and craftsmanship to realize. The ultra-thin 11.9mm profile meant we had to invent the world’s most compact laptop hinge — just 3mm high — to preserve its sleek lines. To fit in the full-size keyboard, we had to create a surround that’s just 2.1mm wide at the edges, and we designed the powerful four-speaker audio system in partnership with audiophile specialists Harman Kardon. ZenBook is renowned for its unique, stunning looks, and you’ll instantly recognize the iconic Zen-inspired spun-metal finish on ZenBook 3’s all-metal unibody enclosure — a finish that takes 40 painstaking steps to create. But we’ve added a beautiful twist, using a special 2-phase anodizing process to create stunning golden edge highlights. To complete this sophisticated new theme, we’ve added a unique gold ASUS logo and given the keyboard a matching gold backlight.”

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Continue reading our review of the ASUS ZenBook 3 UX390UA laptop!

Computex 2017: AMD Demos Ryzen Mobile SoC with Vega Graphics

Subject: Processors, Mobile | May 30, 2017 - 10:43 PM |
Tagged: amd, ryzen, mobile, Vega

As part of the company’s press conference from Computex 2017, AMD displayed for the first time to the public a working notebook utilizing the upcoming Ryzen SoC with on-die Vega graphics. The CPU is a 4-core / 8-thread design and the system was shown playing back some basic video.

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We don’t really have any more detail than that on the platform, other availability in second half of this year. The system being shown was impressively built, with a sub-15mm ultra-portable form factor, putting to rest concerns over AMD’s ability to scale Zen and Vega to the lower required power numbers. AMD claims that Ryzen mobile will offer 50% better CPU performance and 40% better GPU performance than the 7th Generation AMD APU. I can't wait to test this myself, but with a jump like that AMD should be competitive in the processor space again and continue its dominance in integrated graphics.

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The Vega on-die integration was first mentioned at the company’s financial analyst day, though if you were like me, it went unnoticed in the wave of Threadripper and EPYC news. This iteration is obviously not using a non-HBM2 memory implementation, but I don’t yet know if there is any kind of non-system-memory cache on the processor to help improve integrated graphics performance.

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For a product not slated to be released until the end of this year, seeing a low profile, high performance demo of the platform is a good sign for AMD and a welcome indicator that the company could finally fight back in the mobile notebook space.

Source: AMD