Graphics chips drive multi-processor designs

I have reported before on the interesting phenomenon of students implement general purpose parallel processing system design on a PS3 games console. I thought it was just a whacky idea to promote Cell or to keep the students amused. Not a bit of it. Multi-processor-based graphics engines may be good at rendering your Halo 3 images but they can also be put to use for other number-crunching tasks such as analysing geological data.

The reason is obvious. Such is the need for the very highest resolution graphics in games machines and media PCs that in once sense the graphics co-processor has taken over as the technology driver when it comes to impellent parallel processing. Graphics processors went parallel long before Core Duo and Opteron did. AS EDN executive editor Ron Wilson writes in his blog – Nvidia, ATI/AMD look beyond GPUs toward unified gaming engines – “The idea that the GPU, once regarded as a non-programmable fixed-function device, could emerge as the real computing heart of the game system, taking major tasks away from the CPU, is fascinating.” “But the rapid spread of GPU-based computing in other areas suggests that this is a very plausible future for gaming SoCs,” writes Ron Wilson.

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