MediaFile

Intel’s facial-recognition freaks out potential customers

Mine and Yinka Adegoke’s story today on Intel’s proposal to use facial-recognition technology with a virtual TV service and set-top box has raised legitimate concerns about allowing Big Brother into consumers’ living rooms.

People’s reluctance to have a camera keep tabs on who is sitting in front of their TV may be a hurdle that Intel has underestimated as it struggles to convince media content providers to hand over their shows.

When I bought a Kinect for my Xbox last year, I felt paranoid for at least a couple of weeks every time I sat down on my sofa in front of my TV. Each time I turn on my Xbox, a camera — connected to Microsoft and the Internet — sees everything I do.

Microsoft doesn’t currently use the Kinect to track who is watching TV in my house, but it has also discussed this possibility with programmers and it might come one day.

For now, I’ve gotten used to Kinect looking at me, just like most people have become accustomed to Google tracking what they do on the web.

Can’t find a socket to charge your phone? IDT’s got a solution.

IDT’s wireless recharging chips, on right, versus a rival product.

(Updates with cost details)

Ted Tewksbury wants to get rid your iPhone cable.

The chief executive of San Jose, California-based Integrated Device Technology is pushing a set of microchips he hopes will eventually render “contactless charging” — charging your smartphone by simply placing it on a specific spot — commonplace and eventually make phone-charging cables a thing of the past.

On a recent visit to IDT’s offices, Tewksbury showed me the chips he’s just started selling. They’re IDT”s twist on existing technology, using inductive coupling, which has yet to reach critical mass.

Teardown experts crack open Apple’s new iPad

The electronics hardware experts at iFixit find themselves again in the spotlight as they crack open the latest iPad to see what chips, display and other components make it tick. Teardowns, as they’re called, are closely followed by investors betting on which companies supply components for consumer electronics devices like Apple’s massively iPads and iPhones.

iFixit sent its engineers to Australia, where they managed to buy one of the first new iPads to be sold, and — fueled by cans of Red Bull –  proceeded to crack it open with tools ranging from guitar picks (to pry open the cover) to “spudgers” (for poking and prodding at wires).

They’re live-blogging the entire affair, but so many people appear to be watching that iFixit’s webpage is responding very slowly.

Tablets are shaking up the chip industry, even more

Tablets like Apple’s iPad are on their way to becoming a great equalizer of the semiconductor industry.

Sales of semiconductors used in tablets are ballooning and are set to nearly double to $18.4 billion by 2014 , according to a new report from IHS iSuppli.  Although still smaller than the  chip market for mobile phones and personal computers, that’s a massive market — and one that has not been dominated by one or two behemoth players. Last year, tablets were only the No. 8 destination for microchips.

Intel has long ruled over the PC industry and Qualcomm has enjoyed a similar position in cellphones, but the fast-growing tablet market is almost completely up for grabs, and each device needs a broad range of chips. Application processors attract the lion’s share of attention form from Wall Street investors but the iPad and other tablets are also packed with radio frequency chips, DRAM memory, NAND storage, sensors and analog semiconductors made by everyone from Avago to Samsung.

Nvidia to Apple: thanks for the backhanded compliment

REUTERS/Robert Galbraith

Nvidia got some free publicity from Apple today. Well, sort of.

On Wednesday, its crosstown peer flashed a slide at the new iPad’s unveiling, briefly claiming that Apple’s A5X processor packed four times the graphics punch of Nvidia’s own next-generation Tegra 3. Nvidia product spokesman Ken Brown’s phone has been ringing off the hook since.

“People noticed. When Apple calls out your processor as the one to beat, it gets attention. We’ve gotten some questions about it,” he said.

“It almost looks like it’s a two-horse race between Apple and Tegra,” he added, deftly framing things in the best possible light for Nvidia.

SuVolta takes wraps off battery-friendly chip technology

Silicon Valley start-up SuVolta is giving the electronics industry a peek under the hood at its new technology that it claims will drastically boost the energy efficiency of microchips.

That’s something chip designers are focusing more and more on as people increasingly rely on smartphones and tablets that chew up battery charges.

SuVolta says it can halve the amount of power used by chips without affecting their performance, and it is debuting the details of its technology to scientists at the 2011 International Electron Devices Meeting on Wednesday in Washington, DC.

Micron enlists IBM to speed up memory chips

Micron has enlisted IBM to help build smart memory chips that could drastically speed up the high-performance computers and networking systems that make up the Internet.

Engineers in recent years have run into a “memory wall” as the increasing efficiency of computer processors outpaces the speed that memory chips can deliver, limiting the overall performance  improvemement of high-end computers.

And one key bottleneck keeping memory chips from being more efficient has been the pathway they use to move data to computers’ processors and back again. 

Chipmakers most creative, drugmakers least?

Chipmakers including Intel and Qualcomm make up the world’s most innovative industry, according to a new analysis of patents by Thomson Reuters that is equally notable for some of the companies it does not include.

Thomson Reuters has just released its “Top 100 Global Innovators” list, which it compiled by scrutinizing patent data around the world using a peer-review methodology it developed.

“We tried to take an objective look at technology innovation and apply a composite measure not just of volumes, but also of influence in terms of citations of later published patents, in terms of globalization of patenting,” says Bob Stembridge, the lead analyst behind the study.

Nvidia’s power-efficient chips picked for supercomputer

In the latest challenge to Intel’s dominance of the PC and server industry, smaller chipmaker Nvidia is teaming up with the Barcelona Supercomputing Center to develop a supercomputer that will run on energy efficient ARM processors.

With the massive data centers that power the Internet consuming an ever increasing amount of electricity, energy efficiency is becoming a priority, and many companies are looking toward the technology behind our smartphones and tablets to do the job.

ARM Holdings’ chip architecture has come to dominate the mobile industry because its energy efficiency allows smartphone batteries to remain charged longer than Intel’s mobile processors, which are based on designs originally meant for powerful PCs.

Nvidia chips in with world’s most powerful computer

Nvidia, which got its start making processors for computer game enthusiasts, has won another victory for parrallel computing with the inclusion of its graphics chips in what is expected to be the world’s fastest supercomputer.

The Titan computer being built for the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Oak Ridge, Tenn should boast a record 20 petaflops of peak performance — that’s about 20 million billion math operations per second.

By the time it is complete in 2013, the computer will be driven by 18,000 Nvidia graphic processor units, or GPUs, along with an equivalent number of central processors made by rival Advanced Micro Devices.