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Category: North Carolina State University

Engaging AI

In December, we wrote about our recent collaboration with students from North Carolina State University’s Department of Computer Science. We challenged the students to create a software console that includes an intuitive user interface, computes a performance metric, and uploads results to our database. The specific objective was to make it easy for testers to configure and run an implementation of the TensorFlow framework. In general, we hoped that the end product would model some of the same basic functions we plan to implement with AIXPRT, our machine-learning performance evaluation tool, currently under development.

The students did an outstanding job, and we hope to incorporate some of their work into AIXPRT in the future. We’ve been calling the overall project “Engaging AI” because it produced a functional tool that can help users interact with TensorFlow, and it was the first time that the students had an opportunity to work with AI tools. You can read more details on the Engaging AI page. We also have a new video that describes the project, including the new skillsets our students acquired to achieve success.

engaging-ai-vid

Finally, interested BenchmarkXPRT Development Community members can access to the project’s source code and additional documentation on our XPRT Experiments page. We hope you’ll check it out!

Justin

XPRT collaborations: North Carolina State University

For those of us who work on the BenchmarkXPRT tools, a core goal is involving new contributors and interested parties in the benchmark development process. Adding voices to the discussion fosters the collaboration and innovation that lead to powerful benchmark tools with lasting relevance.

One vehicle for outreach that we especially enjoy is sponsoring a student project through North Carolina State University. Each semester, the Senior Design Center in the university’s Department of Computer Science partners with external companies and organizations to provide student teams with an opportunity to work on real-world programming projects. If you’ve followed the XPRTs for a while, you may remember previous student projects such as Nebula Wolf, a mini-game that shows how well different devices handle games, and VR Demo, a virtual reality prototype workload based on a room escape scenario.

This fall, a team of NC State students is developing a software console for automating machine learning tests. Ideally, the tool will let future testers specify custom workload combinations, compute a performance metric, and upload results to our database. The project will also assess the impact of the framework on performance scores. In fact, the console will perform many of the same functions we plan to implement with AIXPRT.

The students have worked very hard on the project, and have learned quite a bit about benchmarking practices and several new software tools. The project will wrap up in the next couple of weeks, and we’ll share additional details as soon as possible. Early next year, we’ll publish a video about the experience.

If you’d like to join the NC State students and hundreds of other XPRT community members in the future of benchmark development, please let us know!

Justin

VR and AR at Mobile World Congress 2017

Spotting the virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) demos at the recent Mobile World Congress (MWC) in Barcelona was easy: all you had to do was look for the long queues of people waiting to put on a headset and see another world. Though the demos ranged from games to simulated roller-coaster rides to simple how-to tools, the interest of the crowd was always high. A lot of the attraction was clearly due to the tools’ relative novelty, but many people seemed focused on using the technologies to create commercially viable products.

Both VR and AR involve a great deal of graphics and data movement, so they can be quite computationally demanding. Right now, that’s not a problem, because most applications and demos are hooked directly to powerful computers. As these technologies become more pervasive, however, they’re going to find their way into our devices, which will almost certainly do some of the processing even as the bulk of the work happens on servers in the cloud. The better the AR and VR experiences our devices can support, the happier we’re likely to be with those technologies.

Along with the crowds at MWC, many of us in the BenchmarkXPRT Development Community are enthusiastic about VR and AR, which is why we’ve been monitoring these fields for some time. We’ve even worked with a group of NC State University students to produce a sample VR workload. If you have thoughts on how we might best support VR and AR, please contact us. Meanwhile, we’ll continue to track both closely and work to get the XPRTs ready to measure how well devices handle these technologies.

Mark

A new reality

A while back, I wrote about a VR demo built by students from North Carolina State University. We’ve been checking it out over the last couple of months and are very impressed. This workload will definitely heat up your device! While the initial results look promising, this is still an experimental workload and it’s too early to use results in formal reviews or product comparisons.

We’ve created a page that tells all about the VR demo. As an experimental workload, the demo is available only to community members. As always, members can download the source as well as the APK.

We asked the students to try to build the workload for iOS as a stretch goal. They successfully built an iOS version, but this was at the end of the semester and there was little time for testing. If you want to experiment with iOS yourself, look at the build instructions for Android and iOS that we include with the source. Note that you will need Xcode to build and deploy the demo on iOS.

After you’ve checked out the workload, let us know what you think!

Finally, we have a new video featuring the VR demo. Enjoy!

vr-demo-video

Eric

Reflecting on 2016

The beginning of a new year is a good time to look back on the previous 12 months and take stock of everything that happened. Here’s a quick recap of a very busy year:

In 2016, the XPRTs travelled quite a bit. Eric went to CES in Las Vegas, Mark attended MWC in Barcelona, and Bill flew out to IDF16 in Shenzhen.

We also sent a team to Seattle for the first XPRT Women Code-A-Thon, an event we’re very proud to have sponsored and co-hosted along with ChickTech, a nonprofit organization dedicated to increasing the number of women in tech-related fields. The Code-a-thon also served as inspiration for an eight-part video series entitled Women Coding for Change. The series explains the motivation behind the Code-a-thon and profiles several of the participants. If you haven’t watched the videos, check them out. They’re well worth the time.

Speaking of videos, we also published one about Nebula Wolf, the mini-game workload produced through our first collaboration with the North Carolina State Senior Design Center. That experience was promising enough for us to partner with another student team this past fall, which resulted in a virtual reality app that we hope to share with the community in the near future.

Of course, we also continued work on our suite of benchmark tools and related resources. We released TouchXPRT 2016 to the public, published the Exploring TouchXPRT 2016 white paper, and released the TouchXPRT 2016 source code to community members.

In 2016, we unveiled the XPRT Weekly Tech Spotlight, a new way for device vendors and manufacturers to share verified test results with buyers around the world. We put 46 devices in the spotlight throughout the year and published Back-to-School, Black Friday, and Holiday device showcases.

In the last quarter of 2016, we celebrated our most widely-used benchmark, WebXPRT, passing the 100,000-run milestone. WebXPRT is still going strong and is as useful and relevant as ever!

Finally, we ended the year with the exciting news that we’re moving forward with efforts to develop a machine-learning performance evaluation tool. We look forward to engaging with the community in the coming year as we tackle this challenge!

As always, we’re grateful for everyone who’s helped to make the BenchmarkXPRT Development Community a strong, vibrant, and relevant resource for people all around the world. Here’s to a great 2017!

Justin

Exploring virtual reality

We’ve talked a lot in recent weeks about new technologies we are evaluating for the XPRTs. You may remember that back in June, we also wrote about sponsoring a second senior project with North Carolina State University. Last week, the project ended with the traditional Posters and Pies event. The team gave a very well thought‑out presentation.

NCSU VR blog pic 1

As you can tell from the photo below, the team designed and implemented a nifty virtual reality app. It’s a room escape puzzle, and it looks great!

NCSU VR blog pic 2

The app is a playable game with the ability to record the gameplay for doing repeatable tests. It also includes a recording that allows you to test a device without playing the game. Finally, the app lets you launch directly into the prerecorded game without using a viewer, which will be handy for testing multiple devices.

The team built the app using the Google Cardboard API and the Unity game engine, which allowed them to create Android and iOS versions. We’re looking forward to seeing what that may tell us!

After Posters and Pies, the team came to PT to present their work and answer questions. We were all very impressed with their knowledge and with how well thought out the application was.

NCSU VR blog pic 3

Many thanks to team members Christian McCurdy, Gregory Manning, Grayson Jones, and Shon Ferguson (not shown).

NCSU VR blog pic 4

Thanks also to Dr. Lina Battestilli, the team’s technical advisor, and Margaret Heil, Director of the Senior Design Center.

We are currently evaluating the app, and expect to make it available to the community in early 2017!

Eric

 

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