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Category: Virtual reality

AI is the heartbeat of CES 2019

This year’s CES features a familiar cast of characters: gigantic, super-thin 8K screens; plenty of signage promising the arrival of 5G; robots of all shapes, sizes, and levels of competency; and acres of personal grooming products that you can pair with your phone. In all seriousness, however, one main question keeps coming to mind as I walk the floor: Are we approaching the tipping point where AI truly starts to affect most people in meaningful ways on a daily basis? I think we’re still a couple of years away from ubiquitous AI, but it’s the heartbeat of this year’s show, and it’s going play a part in almost everything we do in the very near future. AI applications at this year’s show include manufacturing, transportation, energy, medicine, education, photography, communications, farming, grocery shopping, fitness, sports, defense, and entertainment, just to name a few. The AI revolution is just starting, but once it gets going, AI will continually reshape society for decades to come. This year’s show reinforces our decision to explore the roles that the XPRTs, beginning with AIXPRT, can play in the AI revolution.

Now for the fun stuff. Here’s a peek at a couple of my favorite displays so far. As is often the case, the most awe-inducing displays at CES are those that overwhelm attendees with light and sound. LG’s enormous curved OLED wall, dubbed the Massive Curve of Nature, was truly something to behold.

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Another big draw has been Bell’s Nexus prototype, a hybrid-electric VTOL (vertical takeoff and landing) air taxi. Some journalists can’t resist calling it a flying car, but I refuse to do so, because it has nothing in common with cars apart from the fact that people sit in it and use it to travel from place to place. As Elon Musk once said of an earlier, but similar, concept, “it’s just a helicopter in helicopter’s clothing.” Semantics aside, it’s intriguing to imagine urban environments full of nimble aircraft that are quieter, easier to fly, and more energy efficient than traditional helicopters, especially if they’re paired with autonomous driving technologies.

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Finally, quite a few companies are displaying props that put some of the “reality” back into “virtual reality.” Driving and flight simulators with full range of motion that are small enough to fit in someone’s basement or game room, full-body VR suits that control your temperature and deliver electrical stimulus based on game play (yikes!), and portable roller-coaster-like VR rides were just a few of the attractions.

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It’s been a fascinating show so far!

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

MWCS18 and AIXPRT: a new video

A few weeks ago, Bill shared his first impressions from this year’s Mobile World Congress Shanghai (MWCS). “5G +” was the major theme, and there was a heavy emphasis on 5G + AI. This week, we published a video about Bill’s MWCS experience and the role that the XPRTs can play in evaluating emerging technologies such as 5G, AI, and VR. Check it out!

[caption id="attachment_3462" align="alignleft" width="480"]MWC Shanghai 2018: 5G, AI, VR, and the XPRTs MWC Shanghai 2018: 5G, AI, VR, and the XPRTs[/caption]

 

You can read more about AIXPRT development here. We’re still accepting responses to the AIXPRT Request for Comments, so if you would like to share your ideas on developing an AI/machine learning benchmark, please feel free to contact us.

Justin

 

Thoughts from MWC Shanghai 2018

Ni hao from Shanghai! It is amazing the change that happens in a year. This year’s MWC Shanghai, like last year’s, took up about half of the Shanghai New International Expo Centre (SNIEC). “5G +” is the major theme and, unlike last year, 5G is not something in the distant future. It is now assumed to be in progress.

The biggest of the pluses was AI, with a number of booths explicitly sporting 5G + AI signage. There were also 5G plus robots, cars, and cloud services. Many of those are really about AI as well. The show makes it feel like 5G is everywhere and will make everything better (or at least a lot faster). And Asia is leading the way.

[caption id="attachment_3447" align="alignleft" width="640"]5G + robotics at MWCS 18. 5G + robotics at MWCS 18.[/caption]

Most of the booths touted their 5G support as they did last year, but rather than talking about the future, they tried to say that their 5G was now. They claimed their products were in real-world tests with anticipated deployment schedules. One of the keynote speakers talked about 1.2 billion 5G connections by 2025, with more than half of those in Asia. The purported scale and speed of the transition to 5G is staggering.

[caption id="attachment_3449" align="alignleft" width="640"]The keynote stage, displaying some big numbers. The keynote stage, displaying some big numbers.[/caption]

The last two halls I visited showed that world is not all 5G and AI. These halls looked at current fun applications of mobile technologies and companies developing technologies in the near future. MWC allowed children into one of the halls, where they (and we adults) could fly drones and experience VR technology. I watched in some amusement as people crashed drones, rode bikes with VR gear to simulate horses, were 3D scanned, and generally tried out new tech that didn’t always work.

The second hall included small booths from new companies working on future technologies that might be ready “4 years from now” (4YFN). These companies did not have much to show yet, but each booth displayed the company name and a short phrase summing up their future tech. That led to “Deepscent Labs is a smart scent data company,” ChineSpain is a “Marketplace of experiences for Chinese tourists in Spain,” and “Juice is a tech-based music contents startup that creates an ecosystem of music.” The mind boggles!

The XPRTs’ foray into AI with AIXPRT seems well timed based on this show. Other areas from this show that may be worth considering for the XPRTs are 5G and the cloud. We would love to hear your thoughts on those areas. We know they are important, but do you need the XPRTs and their emphasis on real-world benchmarks and workloads in those areas? Drop us a line and let us know!

Bill

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

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