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TI's Chips Will Make 2012's Tablets Real-Time 3-D Supercomputers


Texas Instruments has just outed a chip well ahead of its 2012 availability date, but it's such a hot ticket item it's worth knowing about—because it may enable your tablet PCs of next year to surpass your laptops of this year, with whizbang features like real-time 3-D video.

The OMAP 5 chip packs two ARM Cortex A15 cores inside (a tech we've covered before) running at up to 2GHz. So right from the start it'll outperform the single-core 1GHz chips inside the current crop of tablet PCs—including the Cortex A8-based iPad—as well being twice as fast as upcoming A9-based tablets, which may include the iPad 2. Cleverly, there are also two Cortex M4 processors aboard the sliver of silicon, ready to take on the humdrum tasks that your typical tablet PC (or possibly smartphone) needs to work, stuff like background data management that as a user you don't need to know about...although you'll surely appreciate the speed boost this will give when it frees up the main processors to do more important tasks.

But enough about the tech. What'll it let your 2012/2013 tablets do? Pretty much everything, and possibly more, that your laptop does right now. Key features include the ability to support up to four cameras at the same time—a ridiculous trick, you may think, until you realize this translates into the ability to portray real-time 3-D video feeds at up to full-HD resolution, real-time conversion of 2-D video into 3-D output, as well as recording real-time 3-D video. This could take tablet-based or mobile video conferencing into the third dimension in a truly mind-popping way (to say nothing about the possibilities for Chatroulette in 3-D)...

TI also notes the chip enables "24-megapixel imaging" which would (shoved into a big smartphone or pocket tablet, along with the right lens technology) deal a serious death-blow to the compact digital camera market. There's also mention of "PC-like Internet browsing," which we take to be a reference to the speed and complexity of mobile browser experiences, because tablet web browsing is already pretty impressive.

And as well as the obvious tricks like super-powerful 3-D gaming (with up to five times as much complexity as existing peer CPUs can manage), TI mentions that the chip is swift enough to power "3-D graphics enabled user interfaces" without sapping too much power. In other words, your UI for your tablet PC could actually be a 3-D experience too, tapping into the gesture-driven "natural user interface" ideas that Microsoft was pushing recently. Can we say "Minority Report UI on your tablet"? Yes, I think we could.

If you think about all the real-time voice translation, text translation (as an evolution of the existing WordLens app) and other tricks this kind of mobile CPU power could enable, matching the kind of "augmented humanity" thinking that Google's Eric Schmidt was talking about just the other day, then TI is giving us a clear signal that the next year's crop of Android, Windows, and Apple tablets will literally blow your mind.

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