US multimedia start-up gets big name backers

US multimedia start-up gets big name backers
Richard Ball A media-processor for video and 3D games is being developed by US start-up Equator Technologies. Backing for the venture is coming from Hitachi, Canon and SNK, a Japanese arcade games manufacturer. Equator joins a growing band of firms advocating the execution of multimedia tasks in software, using a powerful programmable processor. These include Matsushita with its Media Core Processor (EW, May 27), Philips’ TriMedia and the Mpact media-processor from Chromatic Research. Most existing solutions for multimedia, such as MPEG-2 decoders or 3D graphics chips, use fixed function hardware blocks controlled by a microprocessor. The merit of a software approach is that a single device can be used in several products. “High-level language programming allows a single processor architecture to be used in multiple applications,” said John O’Donnell, Equator’s president. To make the processor powerful enough, the start-up is using a very long instruction word architecture, good for parallel processing and for use with high level languages such as C. Equator will replace hard-wired functions with its programmable chip in applications such as high definition television, set-top boxes and games machines. This will help avoid the need to upgrade hardware when more powerful multimedia coding algorithms are introduced as will happen with the introduction of MPEG-4. One application being targeted is the all-format decoding software developed by Hitachi for digital TV. The US digital TV standard has 18 formats – difficult to decode using custom hardware. Canon is expected to use the chip in 3D graphics and imaging products, while SNK will use it in next generation arcade games to reduce upgrade costs. See Technology.


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