Movidius: Making the Chips that Power 3D Image Processing

Movidius is a silicon chip company company that is headquartered in Dublin, with operations in Belfast, Romania and Hong Kong. The chips that they create are especially designed to bring the best 3D video experience to mobile phones, tablet computers and consumer products.

The vision for Movidius came from their CTO, David Moloney. He had been doing some research around high-performance computing, and came up with some architectural ideas for new processors that would have a very large amount of computing power with very low power consumption. This could be extremely useful to the mobile computing market as there is only so much power for a given battery size.

That opens lots of opportunities for applications to migrate to the mobile format that were previously only possible to run on PCs.

As well as being a flexible technology that can be applied to lots of different applications in mobile devices, the underlying architecture delivers a very compelling solution for the 3D application area.

There are some quite sizable companies involved in this area, and the CEO of Movidius, Sean Mitchell, explains how they plan to handle themselves in this marketplace, “The strategy that we have approached the market with is not to compete the likes of Invidia or Texas Instruments directly.

“They focus on the main processor within the phone — the application processor. We have developed our chip to be a co-processor that can assist that main processor in delivering its new applications.

“For example, with 3D video, we would be attached to the main application processor, but we would take control of both of the cameras in the system and we would do all the 3D processing. So we are kind of an additional accelerator to boost the performance of the main processor.”

An example of how Movidius products can enable 3D camera—phones be seen in the following video:

Sean continues, “We are complementary to their offering, but they have an ongoing development program themselves so we have to keep ahead of that progress in the main processor and keep offering new stuff.”

The traditional approach to chip manufacturing is to continually up the speed of the processor, but there is an upper limit governed by the need to deliver larger amounts of power to drive them.

Sean says, “Because increasing the processing speed was fundamentally not the way to go – not because of processing but because of power issues – we have adopted a different approach which is a highly parallel, multi-core architecture. It delivers massive computing power but at a much lower level of power consumption per operation.

“We are operating at quite modest clock rates but using much more intelligence in the architecture to deliver the workload.”

Sean is looking forward to showcasing the technology they have at the ITLG/Irish Times Awards, “There’s nowhere else in the world like Silicon Valley where the network connections are so strong. Business is done between people so it is important to make those connections.”

Movidius is one of seven Irish companies that have been invited to the Technology Company Showcase at the 4th Annual Silicon Valley Technology Leaders Awards. It is being held at Stanford University on April 5th and is being sponsored by the Irish Times.

Over the weeks leading up to the event we at Technology Voice will be doing articles on all seven of the companies that are showcasing their technology.

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