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UI as the next battlefield in CE (Part 2)

Posted: 05 Apr 2012 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:predictive intelligence? cloud computing? general-purpose processor?

In the future, to achieve the level of performance, accuracy, and power efficiency required for advanced UI processing, systems will need a self-contained "UI processor", essentially acting as a co-processor. This device will be designed with integrated, specialized hardware accelerators that perform the primary and advanced UI functions significantly faster than a general-purpose processor. In addition, they will have sufficient integrated memory resources combined with Arithmetic Logic Units (ALU) dedicated to increasing look-up table performance. We believe these UI processors will be highly efficient, enabling them to process advanced UI functions faster, with less latency, and with improved power as compared to traditional implementations using a general-purpose applications processor. Other potential applications of the UI processor include interacting with the user to make the UI easier to operate and provide system sleep mode to preserve power. While current system designers must choose between balancing accuracy and latency, a dedicated UI processor would allow developers to optimize their systems to do both efficiently.

Figure 2: As technology matures and becomes more complex, features migrate to hardware to improve performance and cost, making the integration of memory and logic an area for innovation to achieve the ultimate user experience.

Figure 3: The graphic processing evolved over time from software driven solutions to embedded dedicated hardware accelerators.

The concept of using specialized co-processors serving an emerging function is not a new one. Numerous technologies C graphics, encryption, digital signal processing, high-speed communications C have leveraged specialized hardware to offload processing from the host processor to enable the cost-effective implementation as the technology matures (figure 2). To meet the demanding requirements of next-generation user interfaces, UI processors will offer a variety of hardware-based speech and image processing accelerators specifically designed for these types of compute-intensive tasks. Certainly, as these UI technologies mature and stabilize, they could eventually be integrated into the general-purpose processor architecture, just as graphics (figure 3), encryption, digital signal processing, and communications processing have been. However, we are likely several years away from this trend taking hold. Until then, OEMs will need to rely upon UI processors to keep pace with the rapidly evolving, leading edge of user interface technology.

The rise of the UI processor is already underway. Much of the foundation required for self and predictive intelligence is currently available, and dedicated UI devices will take a variety of forms as the technology continues to evolve. While the architecture of these devices will be important, it will be the intellectual property and the level of integration, which will determine the market leaders. As ease of use continues to drive product differentiation, UI technologies will increase in their complexity. With the availability of UI processors, OEMs will be able to introduce advanced UI features such as speech and facial recognition to provide greater ease of use and capture critical market share. In addition, through the use of self and predictive intelligence, OEMs will be able to provide accuracy, reliability, and low latency in the most cost-effective way.

About the author
Alvin Wong is vice president of marketing and business development for Spansion Inc.'s Programmable System Solutions. Wong has over 20 years of experience in strategic marketing and managing business units at semiconductor and technology companies. His most recent position was general manager of Integrated Device Technology for its Advanced User Interface and prior to that was vice president and general manager of Leadis Technologies Touch Business Unit. He has also held vice president of marketing positions at Xceive Corporation and Infineon Technologies, and several positions with Philips. Wong completed the Executive Management Program at Indiana University Graduate School of Business and holds a B.S.E.E. from San Jose State University.

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