NVIDIA have just concluded their Press Event live from Las Vegas on the eve of CES 2014 and it was chock full of new info for mobile hardware enthusiasts. Although G-Sync monitor technology and Gamestream were mentioned, the lions share of time was dedicated to their upcoming mobile platform - Tegra K1.
Mobile gaming is a growth area like no other, but it's been held back by the slow adoption of high-quality graphics rendering methods. The previous generation - effectively begun with the release of DirectX9 which was later adopted by the XBOX 360 and PS3 - has been a 8-year slog that mobile devices have only just joined. To be truly next-generation any modern mobile device will need to be capable of DX11.1, the standard for both PC and Console gaming. This requires a radical hardware change as seen in the console-space, where the XBOX One and PS4 are effectively optimised PCs.
Enter Tegra K1. Eschewing the quad-core design of the Tegra 4, K1 features 192 CUDA cores and an architecture based on NVIDIA's Kepler chips. This brings in it line not only with the desktop PC platform, but also GRID game-streaming servers and the ten greenest supercomputers worldwide. NVIDIA CEO Jen-Hsun Huang described it has having the 'Heart of GeForce, and the Soul of Tesla'.
NVIDIA's approach will streamline development for gaming on Tegra K1 platforms, demonstrated by the use of Epic's Unreal Engine 4 in the presentation. Kepler's scalable architecture and the implementation of DX11.1 techniques allows for realistic scenes previously impossible with OpenGL 3-based methods common to mobile games. They're also programmable cores, which when combined with the Android platform - the most popular development ecosystem in the world - could allow for ever more vibrancy and innovation.
During the event Unreal Engine 4, NVIDIA's in-house IRA face demo, and a bespoke destructible scene were shown off on what was claimed to be a Tegra K1 device. Although there were some reservations to be had, and a hefty pinch of salt needed, it was quite persuasive. The question is, will mobile development be so tailored to NVIDIA hardware that it harms the currently dual-natured PC and Console ecosystems which features NVIDIA and AMD GPUs; NVIDIA certainly set their stall out by claiming that Android and Mobile were the consoles of the future.
In something of a surprise, Jen also highlighted another application possible with Tegra-K1: implementation within the automotive sector. The raw power of the K1 designs - >360 GFLOPS - allows real-time processing for Advanced Driver Assistance (ADA) functionality such as parking sensor processing and eventually semi-automated driving. As a programmable rather than fixed platform algorithms can be incrementally improved and updated, a process not possible currently.
But that wasn't all. NVIDIA are also introducing "Project Mercury", a new environment for automotive designers to piece together virtual dashboards from real-looking parts generated using the same photo-realistic rendering techniques seen in films and the latest games. Not simply a realistic virtual show-room, the manufacturer or even consumer will be able to customise dials and displays with have a very real look with branded colouring and paint effects.
Tegra K1 will come in two variants. The first will have a 32-bit Quad-A15 Core ARM CPU, similar to current mobile designs but with the supremely powerful 192-core bolt-on. The second is a 64-bit design centred around NVIDIA's Denver Dual-core CPU. Fast and efficient, NVIDIA claims this will be the first mobile device running a 64-bit Android OS (which they briefly demoed, this was a very new design).
The new chips aside, NVIDIA were their usual confident selves. Whether it be showing off Gamestream gameplay from servers in France or putting their G-Sync technology front and centre at the Red Bull Battlegrounds they're obviously bullish on the concept of propriety NVIDIA technology being at the heart of gaming and moving into key growth areas which can benefit from their expertise. Whether the rest of the world see it that way remains to be seen.
You can view NVIDIA's own live-blog of the event here, from which the On-Demand video should be available soon.