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Category: Future of performance evaluation

CES 2023: Adapting to changing realities

The last time the XPRTs attended the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas was in January 2020, shortly before shutdowns due to the global pandemic began. More than 171,000 people attended that year’s show, the 2021 show was totally virtual, and CES shortened the 2022 show after many exhibitors and media pulled out during the Omicron surge. While some aspects of the event are returning to normal this year, about one-third of the typically jam-packed Las Vegas Convention Center space is empty, and only about 100,000 people are likely to attend. Nevertheless, the show is still enormous and full of fascinating new technology.

Just one day into the show, I’ve already noticed some interesting changes in the virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) areas since I last attended in 2020. One change is a significant expansion in the sensory capabilities of VR equipment. For a long time, VR technologies have focused almost solely on visual and audio input technology and the graphics-rendering capabilities necessary for lag-free, immersive experiences. In 2020, I saw companies working on various types of haptic feedback gear, including full-body suits, that pushed the boundaries of VR beyond sight and sound. Now, several companies are demonstrating significant progress in “real-feel touch” technologies for VR. One such company is HaptX, which is developing a set of gloves (see the picture below) that pump air through “microfluidic actuators” so that users can feel the size and shape of virtual objects they interact with in a VR environment. While we often think of VR being used for gaming and entertainment, advances in realistic, multi-sensory capabilities can lead to VR becoming a valuable tool for all kinds of industrial and professional training applications.

A show attendee tries out HaptX gear.

Another change I’ve noticed is how AR seems poised to move from demos to everyday life by means of integration with all types of smartphone apps. I enjoyed speaking with a representative from a Korean AR company called Arbeon. Arbeon is developing an app that will allow users to point their phone’s camera at an object (a wine bottle in the picture below), and see an array of customizable, interactive AR animations surrounding the object. You’ll be able to find product info, see and leave feedback similar to “likes” and reviews, attach emojis, tag friends, and even purchase the product, all from your phone’s AR-enhanced camera and screen. It’s an interesting concept with limitless applications. While VR is here to stay and getting better all the time, I personally think that AR will become much more integrated into everyday life in the coming years. I also think AR apps for phones will allow the technology to take off more quickly in the near term than clunkier options like AR eyeglasses.

The large screen displays how Arbeon’s AR phone app interacts with objects like a wine bottle.

Of course, thinking about AR has led me to wonder if we’ll be able to incorporate AR-related workloads into future XPRTs. As new technologies place new and unprecedented levels of processing demand on our computing hardware, the need for objective performance evaluation will continue. Providing reliable, objective performance data is why the XPRTs exist, and planning for the future of the XPRTs is why we’re at CES 2023. If you have any thoughts about how the XPRTs can help to evaluate new technologies, we’d love to hear from you!

Justin

We want your thoughts about experimental WebXPRT 4 workloads

Two weeks ago, we discussed how users can automate WebXPRT 4 testing by appending several parameters and values to the benchmark’s URL. One of these lets you enable any available experimental workloads during the test run. While we don’t currently offer any experimental workloads for WebXPRT 4, we are seeking suggestions for possible future workload scenarios, or specific web technologies that you’d like to be able to test with an experimental workload.

The main purpose of optional, experimental workloads would be to test cutting-edge browser technologies or new use cases, even if the experimental workload doesn’t work on all browsers or devices. The individual scores for the experimental workloads would stand alone, and would not factor in the WebXPRT 4 overall score. WebXPRT 4 testers would be able to run the experimental workloads one of two ways: by adjusting a value in the WebXPRT 4 automation scripts, as mentioned above, or by manually selecting them on the benchmark’s home screen.

Testers would benefit from experimental workloads by learning how well certain browsers or systems handle new tasks (e.g., new web apps or AI capabilities). We would benefit from fielding workloads for large-scale testing and user feedback before we commit to including them as core WebXPRT workloads.

Do you have any general thoughts about experimental workloads for browser performance testing, or any specific workloads that you’d like us to consider? Please let us know.

Justin

Looking forward to an important WebXPRT milestone

February 28, 2013 was a momentous day for the BenchmarkXPRT Development Community. On that day, we published a press release announcing the official launch of the first version of the WebXPRT benchmark, WebXPRT 2013. As difficult as it is for us to believe, the 10-year anniversary of the initial WebXPRT launch is in just a few short months!

We introduced WebXPRT as a truly unique browser performance benchmark in a field that was already crowded with a variety of measurement tools. Since those early days, the WebXPRT market presence has grown from a small foothold into a worldwide industry standard. Over the years, hundreds of tech press publications have used WebXPRT in thousands of articles and reviews, and the WebXPRT completed-runs counter rolled over the 1,000,000-run mark.

New web technologies are continually changing the way we use the web, and browser-performance benchmarks should evaluate how well new devices handle the web of today, not the web of several years ago. While some organizations have stopped development for other browser performance benchmarks, we’ve had the opportunity to continue updating and refining WebXPRT. We can look back at each of the four major iterations of the benchmark—WebXPRT 2013, WebXPRT 2015, WebXPRT 3, and WebXPRT 4—and see a consistent philosophy and shared technical lineage contributing to a product that has steadily improved.

As we get closer to the 10-year anniversary of WebXPRT next year, we’ll be sharing more insights about its reach and impact on the industry, discussing possible future plans for the benchmark, and announcing some fun anniversary-related opportunities for WebXPRT users. We think 2023 will be the best year yet for WebXPRT!

Justin

The XPRTs: What would you like to see?

One of the core principles of the BenchmarkXPRT Development Community is a commitment to valuing the feedback of both community members and the larger group of testers that use the XPRTs on a regular basis. That feedback helps us to ensure that as the XPRTs continue to grow and evolve, the resources that we offer will continue to meet the needs of those that use them.

In the past, user feedback has influenced specific aspects of our benchmarks such as the length of test runs, user interface features, results presentation, and the removal or inclusion of specific workloads. More broadly, we have also received suggestions for entirely new XPRTs and ways we might target emerging technologies or industry use cases.

As we approach the second half of 2022 and begin planning for 2023, we’re asking to hear your ideas about new XPRTs—or new features for existing XPRTs. Are you aware of hardware form factors, software platforms, or prominent applications that are difficult or impossible to evaluate using existing performance benchmarks? Are there new technologies we should be incorporating into existing XPRTs via new workloads? Can you recommend ways to improve any of the XPRTs or XPRT-related tools such as results viewers?

We are interested in your answers to these questions and any other ideas you have, so please feel free to contact us. We look forward to hearing your thoughts!

Justin

Here’s what to expect in the WebXPRT 4 Preview

A few months ago, we shared detailed information about the changes we expected to make in WebXPRT 4. We are currently doing internal testing of the WebXPRT 4 Preview build in preparation for releasing it to the public. We want to let our readers know what to expect.

We’ve made some changes since our last update and some of the details we present below could still change before the preview release. However, we are much closer to the final product. Once we release the WebXPRT 4 Preview, testers will be able to publish scores from Preview build testing. We will limit any changes that we make between the Preview and the final release to the UI or features that are not expected to affect test scores.

General changes

Some of the non-workload changes we’ve made in WebXPRT 4 relate to our typical benchmark update process.

  • We have updated the aesthetics of the WebXPRT UI to make WebXPRT 4 visually distinct from older versions. We did not significantly change the flow of the UI.
  • We have updated content in some of the workloads to reflect changes in everyday technology, such as upgrading most of the photos in the photo processing workloads to higher resolutions.
  • We have not yet added a looping function to the automation scripts, but are still considering it for the future.
  • We investigated the possibility of shortening the benchmark by reducing the default number of iterations from seven to five, but have decided to stick with seven iterations to ensure that score variability remains acceptable across all platforms.

Workload changes

  • Photo Enhancement. We increased the efficiency of the workload’s Canvas object creation function, and replaced the existing photos with new, higher-resolution photos.
  • Organize Album Using AI. We replaced ConvNetJS with WebAssembly (WASM) based OpenCV.js for both the face detection and image classification tasks. We changed the images for the image classification tasks to images from the ImageNet dataset.
  • Stock Option Pricing. We updated the dygraph.js library.
  • Sales Graphs. We made no changes to this workload.
  • Encrypt Notes and OCR Scan. We replaced ASM.js with WASM for the Notes task and updated the WASM-based Tesseract version for the OCR task.
  • Online Homework. In addition to the existing scenario which uses four Web Workers, we have added a scenario with two Web Workers. The workload now covers a wider range of Web Worker performance, and we calculate the score by using the combined run time of both scenarios. We also updated the typo.js library.

Experimental workloads

As part of the WebXPRT 4 development process, we researched the possibility of including two new workloads: a natural language processing (NLP) workload, and an Angular-based message scrolling workload. After much testing and discussion, we have decided to not include these two workloads in WebXPRT 4. They will be good candidates for us to add as experimental WebXPRT 4 workloads in 2022.

The release timeline

Our goal is to publish the WebXPRT 4 preview build by December 15th, which will allow testers to publish scores in the weeks leading up to the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas in January 2022. We will provide more detailed information about the GA timeline here in the blog as soon as possible.

If you have any questions about the details we’ve shared above, please feel free to ask!

Justin

Thinking about experimental WebXPRT workloads in 2022

As the WebXPRT 4 development process has progressed, we’ve started to discuss the possibility of offering experimental WebXPRT 4 workloads in 2022. These would be optional workloads that test cutting-edge browser technologies or new use cases. The individual scores for the experimental workloads would stand alone, and would not factor in the WebXPRT 4 overall score.

WebXPRT testers would be able to run the experimental workloads one of two ways: by manually selecting them on the benchmark’s home screen, or by adjusting a value in the WebXPRT 4 automation scripts.

Testers would benefit from experimental workloads by being able to compare how well certain browsers or systems handle new tasks (e.g., new web apps or AI capabilities). We would benefit from fielding workloads for large-scale testing and user feedback before we commit to including them as core WebXPRT workloads.

Do you have any general thoughts about experimental workloads for browser performance testing, or any specific workloads that you’d like us to consider? Please let us know.

Justin

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