Issue: Volume 40 Issue 3: (May/Jun 2017)


JPR Market Report: Visual Processors

VPUs are at the crossroads of image processing, convolutional neural nets (CNN), machine intelligence, and the emerging augmented-reality market. A VPU is more than just an image processing algorithm co-processor, and more like a powerful subsystem that can take multiple streams of high-speed pixel data and feed a GPU for display, while simultaneously doing data analysis and extraction.

As Jon Peddie Research (JPR) notes, the VPU is a relatively new device. In fact, only one company is making a complete standalone VPU core – Verisilicon – but others are on the way. Cadence has three processor cores, the P5 and P6, which are being used in classic VPU roles, and we expect them to also produce a CNN-optimized VPU. Wave Computing’s Coarse Grained Reconfigurable Array and Google’s Tensor Processing Unit represent new approaches to neural network training and inferencing, respectively. For cloud-based deep learning applications, those two are at the top of the class and featured in the current edition of the VPU report from JPR. 

Other VPU-capable devices, like Ceva’s XM4, Inuitive’s NU 4000, and the VPU-capable processors Intel has acquired recently from Movidus, Silicon Hive, and Nervana, as well as its own remarkably capable Gen9 GPUs, are among the 38 companies identified by JPR that are making VPU-capable processors using GPUs, DSPs, and dedicated engines. Thirty-eight companies, with industry giants like Intel, TI, Nvidia, AMD, and Qualcomm, to name a few, don’t get into a market and invest millions of dollars in R&D and acquisitions unless they see a big return. Therefore, no semiconductor, system builder, software tool maker, or application developer can afford to ignore this emerging, maybe even explosive, market.

The applications for VPUs range from super-smart prosumer cameras to automobile license readers at bridges and gateways, to airport security and nozzle monitoring of a satellite-launching rocket. With high-resolution cameras being employed in every aspect of our lives, making autonomous vehicles of all types possible, drone surveillance and crop assessment affordable and reliable, and face recognition at ATMs a new normal in our lives, the demand for high-performance front-end processing of the myriad of image-processing functions has never been greater.


VPUs are at the center of advanced image processing, CNNs, and augmented reality.

HP Offers New DreamColor Displays

HP Inc. announced a true Cinema 4k display, arming color professionals with new features, like color-critical accuracy and automatic calibration. 

The HP DreamColor Z31x Studio Display includes an expansive color gamut for vivid colors, innovation to deliver incredible blacks, a built-in colorimeter for self-calibration, and intuitive workflow and management tools. The HP Z31x DreamColor Studio Display is scheduled to be available later this year for $3,999. 

Meanwhile, the 24-inch HP Z24x G2 DreamColor Display is HP’s most affordable color-critical display. The HP DreamColor Z24x G2 Display is scheduled to be available to customers in early July for a price of $559.


Dell Adds to Monitor Portfolio 

Dell has some new additions to its monitor offerings. The Dell UltraSharp 27 4k HDR Monitor (UP2718Q), the company’s first HDR10 display with UHD Alliance Premium Certification, boasts an Ultra HD 4k display, with four times more detail than full HD and the depth of 1.07 billion colors. It will be available May 23 for $2,000. The company also announced the Dell UltraSharp 27 4k Monitor (U2718Q) and Dell UltraSharp 25 Monitor (U2518D) that feature Dell’s innovative Infinity-Edge display. Both will be available in mid-July for $700 and $500, respectively. Announced earlier this year, the Dell UltraSharp 32 8k Monitor is now available for $5,000.


Digital Domain VR Suite Debuts 

Digital Domain has announced an end-to-end set of solutions for the creation, production and distribution of VR experiences, with new hardware, software, and cloud services, including advanced livestreaming capabilities, new integration with postproduction suites, and a cloud-based VR distribution platform.

The company also unveiled a portable spherical camera. Kronos provides 4k, 60 fps video through a single cable for both power and data, allowing rapid setup and remote configuration. It offers 12-bit image processing, integrated 360 audio, sports gyro-stabilization, and is weather resistant.


Autodesk Showcases Software Updates 

Autodesk has updated its various offerings. Autodesk Flame 2018 update 1 includes new action and batch paint improvements, such as 16-bit floating point (FP) depth support, scene detect, and conform enhancements. Autodesk Maya 2017 update 3 includes enhancements to character creation tools, such as interactive grooming with XGen, an all-new UV workflow, and updates to the motion graphics tool set that includes a live link with Adobe After Effects and more. Arnold 5.0 delivers several significant updates, including better sampling, new standard surface, standard hair, and standard volume shaders, Open Shading Language (OSL) support, light path expressions, refactored shading API, and a VR camera. Shotgun updates accelerate multi-region performance and make media uploads and downloads faster, regardless of location. Autodesk 3ds Max 2018 offers Arnold 5.0 rendering via a new MAXtoA 1.0 plug-in, customizable workspaces, smart asset creation tools, Bézier motion path animation, and a cloud-based large model viewer (LMV) that integrates with Autodesk Forge.

Flame Family 2018 update 1, Maya 2017 update 3, and 3ds Max 2018 are all available now via Autodesk e-stores and Autodesk resellers. Arnold 5.0 and Shotgun are both available via their respective websites.


Framestore, Facebook Partner on surround 360 Camera 

Framestore is an official creative and technology developer for the new additions to Facebook’s Surround 360 family of 360 cameras: x24 and x6. x24, and its smaller counterpart, x6, are 6 DoF (degrees of freedom) cameras. The x24 captures full RGB and depth at every pixel in each of the 24 cameras. By oversampling 4x at every point in full 360, x24’s depth-estimation algorithms produce best-in-class image quality and full-resolution 6 DoF point clouds that unlock new dimensions in storytelling. Framestore contributed its vast experience in spherical video, depth estimation, point cloud workflows, stitching, and data management to these latest Surround 360 software and hardware developments. 

“The potential of Facebook’s Surround 360 camera is incredible,” says Johannes Saam. “Its point cloud based approach, paired with image overlap, blurs the lines between 2D and 3D in the production pipeline and opens up the opportunities for advanced volumetric capture.”

The Facebook camera ecosystem aims to place the tools to create high-quality VR content within easy reach of filmmakers.


Adobe Updates CC Video Apps 

Adobe has added major new updates to the video apps in Adobe Creative Cloud, including new capabilities in Adobe Premiere Pro CC, Adobe After Effects CC, Adobe SpeedGrade CC, Adobe Prelude CC, Adobe Media Encoder CC, and Adobe Story CC Plus.

Important updates will also be added to Adobe Anywhere for video, to enable a range of tasks from ingest and logging to visual effects collaboration for large teams. A new Adobe Anywhere iPad app enables editors to browse shared productions and play media and sequences from the Adobe Anywhere Server on their iPads.

The updates include a direct link color pipeline between Adobe Premiere Pro CC and Adobe SpeedGrade CC, expanded native support for brilliant visuals, including 4k high frame rate content, a new mask tracker in Adobe After Effects, the Adobe Prelude CC Live Logger iPad app, and many other feature enhancements.

Current Adobe Creative Cloud members receive all the innovations as part of their existing membership at no extra cost.