You’ve probably never heard of Imagination Technologies before. It’s okay, you’re not alone. They have very few consumer-facing products and even those have other names on them (Pure). So, what are they doing at CES? Well, Imagination is an IP technology licensing company, which means that they are more of the masterminds behind the operation and they sell their technologies to the likes of companies we have all heard of; Apple, LG, and MediaTek to name a few.
PowerVR By Imagination
PowerVR is a product that is created by Imagination and while you may have never heard of it, it’s crucial for a lot of the products you use every day. Back when phones were still only so powerful that they could run Snake, Imagination was “imagining” a world where phones would be able to play games that at the time were still only available with the product of their then hardware partner, the Sega Dreamcast.
Finally in 2006, companies like Blackberry started building the world’s first smartphones and in 2007 the iPhone was born and the rest, as they say, is history. Eight years later, PowerVR and other IP from Imagination ships with roughly 1.3 Billion products every year, powering the graphics technology that allows much of today’s smartphones to have clean graphics rivaling last generation consoles with maximum efficiency so they don’t fry the battery.
You may have heard of ray tracing before in the context of still pictures that are computer generated. Essentially it is the concept of light in a photo and the shadows that are cast by the objects in the photo being more consistent with real life. Rather than it being an artistic notion of having the shadow follow the light, it is as if the light is real and the shadow is a logical drawing based on the location of the light. Feel free to read more about it on Wikipedia.
As of right now this isn’t something that exists in video games, but Imagination is already working on the technology and they believe that it will be something that developers will take hold of this year and will be in products that users will use starting in 2016.
Region Of Interest Encoding
In videos that we see today, the entire video frame is encoded at the same quality. “Duh,” you say; but Imagination thought better of it. Region of Interest Encoding is a matter of cameras getting smarter and knowing more about what they are taking images of. Cameras are already pretty good at finding faces, so if they can figure out what is important in a video they can encode that part at a higher rate while giving less emphasis to background or unimportant sections, allowing streaming to take place at the same exact bit rate but giving better quality to the parts of the image that matter.
RCR Wireless News thought ahead and recorded what Imagination demonstrated in their private meeting room, it is exactly what I saw and I thought it was quite impressive:
This was the Consumer Electronics Show, after all, so Imagination had at least one consumer-facing product that they brought to the show. The Creator CI20 is something that they actually created last year to give away to a group of developers
The public wanted a piece of the CI20, though, and now it is available for pre-order directly from Imagination for $65. The Creator CI20 is a lot like Raspberry Pi or Arduino but Creator supports Linux and Android out of the box and has a lot of the things that you would need dongles for on Raspberry Pi included on the board. WiFi and Bluetooth are already on board, along with a number of other interfaces, which makes the premium you pay for Creator a little better.
The on-board chipset is based on Imagination’s own MIPS architecture, which makes it more versatile than ARM or x86, and supports PowerVR graphics. Imagination plans to ship the product by the end of this month. To top things off, the entire project is open-source.
For more information about Imagination and Pure brands, visit their websites and check out what they have to offer. It’s incredible that a company you may have never heard of can have such a large impact on how you live your life and Imagination is most certainly one of those companies.