updated 04:10 pm EST, Mon February 27, 2012
Imagination hints at big deals in near, far future
Imagination Technologies outlined some plans for its far and near futures after Electronista stopped by its Mobile World Congress booth on Monday. The PowerVR developer showed a demo of a real-time raytracing graphics engine, where an app calculates the paths of individual light beams in a scene, that it expects to reach mobile devices. As shown in a demo running on a Mac, it could use surface properties rather than unchanging textures to generate the chrome effect on a car, even reflecting another car which in turn had a reflection of the sky.
The process was still significantly away from commercialization, but one engineer at the event said it was likely to come within three to four years. It might arrive mid-cycle into the next-generation Series6 core.
With considerably closer time frames in mind, Imagination also made clear that there would be more customers for its current most advanced mobile graphics, the quad-core PowerVR SGX543MP4, in the near future. Currently, the only major confirmed adopter is Sony, which uses the MP4 in the PS Vita.
Representatives respected their non-disclosure agreements on customer names. However, the mention may have been a clue as to Apple's A5X or A6. Either is poised to include a graphics boost, and Apple's current use of the dual-core SGX543MP2 makes it a logical fit. Quad-core graphics should be key to the next iPad's rumored 2048x1536 display, as most 2011-era mobile chips can't handle much more than 1920x1080.
Other demos at the booth showed off using Series5 chips like the SGX543 to handle general-purpose computing, such as rendering physics in a scene using OpenCL. Like on desktop and notebook graphics, apps aware of OpenCL or Microsoft's DirectCompute can offload tasks to underused parts of the video and get a speed boost.
General-purpose graphics processor computing demo