How GPUs [Graphics Processing Units] are shaping the future
When it comes to high performance computing, graphics processing units (GPUs) are king. Our desperation to know the future of high performance computing only serves to fuel more debate on the subject. But with all this talk, there is no crystal ball that clearly points out the way to the future so we have to begin somewhere.
Looking back at the past is a good indicator of where you may be headed next. Growing up, getting a graphics card for their PC was a big deal and even a top priority in life to alot of people. Why? Because it let you run computer games more smoothly. Now both graphics and games are all over which means the success of graphics cards is linked to the success of its software-games.
It is safe to say that play can and does drive innovation in the computer industry. The powerful GPUs we see today are as a result of gamers who itched to run their games with the most realistic graphics possible at the highest resolution at real time speeds hence the need for constant computational innovation in hardware. As gamers take the credit, the same GPU technology is now being massively applied in other fields. GPUs have evolved dramatically because other developers saw the need for different hardware to provide fast high precision calculations for their new applications or simply put something that could solve a million complex problems in parallel.
Designed for computationally intensive tasks like 3D simulation, it is no surprise then that GPUs can be applied to other computationally intensive problems easily. Computer scientists and Cryptocurrency miners have jumped at the chance to repurpose gaming hardware for artificial intelligence applications. The future is has never been brighter for graphics processing units, since expanding from the niche of game enthusiasts.
For certain markets like VR and AR, GPU application is quite obvious but not so in other areas such as IoT and wearables. It is however, justified by the need for higher performance, power efficiency or both to increase adoption. For products with a display like smart watches, GPU’s can increase battery life as well as graphic fidelity in addition to solving parallel computing problems which GPUs handle easily.
Ray tracing has been reserved for CPUs, but not anymore. Imagination’s PowerVR ray tracing technology used in GPUs can deliver both photorealistic and hyper-realistic graphics onto any screen. This technology will most likely be used in AR/VR headsets, automotive instrument clusters, gaming consoles, foveated rendering, enhancing rasterized graphics, and other applications.
Most likely, you’ve heard of Bitcoin. This form of virtual currency that can be acquired in two ways: The first is by exchange with traditional currency for it or by ‘mining’ in a process called cryptocoin mining. With your computer, a CPU can do this for you but a GPU will offer a much faster resource efficient method.
The most notable development from graphic cards however is in the recent release of OpenCL (open computer language specifications). Once put into use, it will actually pull together specialized computer processors with a CPU and GPU for further accelerating the computing. All manner of applications have the potential to benefit from this kind of parallel computing due to the increased amount of data being processed at once.
Industry leaders like NVIDIA, AMD, and Intel have invested heavily in GPU cards seizing the opportunity to put themselves in the thick of things in the promising a world of benefits to the high performance computing community. Facebook has taken things a step further and is sourcing servers that can host up to eight GPU cards for training their neural networks. What’s more, Amazon is renting out GPU hardware by the hour on its AWS.
Providing better visual experience for the user means higher display resolutions, better quality pixels, and higher refresh rates which always have been the driver for GPU technology in the past. AI and crypto mining are now pushing the limits of GPU technologies out of their previous graphics designer and gamer niches into the mainstream. Tacking on the push for more open standards for accessing the computational power of GPUs will only continue to accelerate our journey to get more out of graphic cards than ever before.