Monday, May 13, 2002

NexGen Computing -- INTERFACE -- The next generation interface is bound to be a combination of stuff poping up on Nooface and Wearables.org, two of the coolest sites on the net, IMHO. Check 'em out to see what's been going on since you saw Lawnmower Man. Graphically, i3dimensions has a great product that should be open souced as soon as humanly possible. Combined with grid rendering (below), the 3d internet may not be so far away after all. Finally, if the bulky gloves and suits turned you off the first time, sensors from Silicon Sensing (providers to the Segway Human Transporter) and accellerometers from IME may make the old VR scuba gear all but obselete. Combined with conductive fabric from Elektex, your new VR gloves might look more like Isotoners (tm) instead of something you ripped off from a wayward hockey player.
NexGen Computing -- SOUND -- NXT Sound. Sonic wallpaper. 'Nuff said.
NexGen Computing -- STORAGE -- For a quick primer on the principles and promise of holographic storage, try this SciAm article. The best work to date is being done in Japan by Myeongkyu Lee using UV light to cure and erase the holographically stored data. The hope? One terabyte of storage per cubic inch. A new spatial light modulator may help them reach those densities.
NexGen Computing -- MEMORY -- Quantum memory is starting to come online both for silicon and optical applications. Quantum Tunneling memory or TSRAMs are more suited to silicon applications, while Quantum Well Memory looks poised to dominate optics. For heady research, try here. Manufacturing difficulties are currently being overcome.
NexGen Computing -- OPTICAL -- Optical technologies have had a slow start, but some brilliant work is being done in the field. Lenslet is doing amazing research into optical DSP chips, and is currently shipping Tera-ops reconfigurable DSPs A truly amazing product. Trellis Photonics is pioneering electroholographic routing which will inevitably find its way inside an all-optical computer. Google around on their researchers and see what they're up to...Primarion is already putting fiber in the box in order to max out throughput, and judging from this SPIE report, we're getting very close to having electro-optic hybrids some time soon. The holy grail, though, is all-optical soliton computing, which stands to blow away anything previously conceived by getting light to steer light impulses in an on-the-fly, reconfigurable optical architecture. Please let this come to market....
NexGen Computing -- SILICON -- While in the short term silicon is still on the table, there are a few twists to keep it interesting. Reconfigurable computing is getting hotter by the day and Star Bridge Systems is already producing first generation RC's. Almost all RC's are woking off the ever-useful Xilinx line of FPGA's. As FPGA computing proliferates, as well as (yet again) printable circuits, places like Opencores will become the hardware equivalent of (open source) Linux. Eventually the whole market could become Napsterized, where you download the hardware as you require it and print or flash it to FPGA within seconds. As far as architecture is concerned, synchoronous should go, in favour of massively parallel asynchronous logic. The network must extend inside the computer. The Amulet Group and Sharp have already produced experimental production units. What would be truly interesting would be a large neural network based on Amulet's core and Sharp's flow control architecture, all flashed to a big fat Xilinx chip. Low power consumption, scalability and fast processing...what more could you ask for?
NexGen Computing -- GRID RENDERING -- So you've got your wireless walkman (tm) computer and your mirrorshades, but you'd like a 3D rendered world to walk around in? That can be arranged. The Syzygy project is a clustered VR program initially designed for CAVE applications. Teamed up with grid computing (made famous by the SETI@home project) and ultrawideband wireless, you can have the Gibsonian world you always wanted.
NexGen Computing -- DISPLAYS -- I'd like my mirrorshades please...but getting to the point where a Head Mounted Display is the size of your average pair of sunglasses is proviing to be difficult. Current state of the art is probably the virtual i-glasses from i/o or, ofcourse, the glasstron from Sony. Unfortunately, both have some pretty hefty power requirements and no bluetooth to keep you portable. Fortunately help is on the way. The Wedge, originally developed for 50" displays could be easily scaled down to HMD sizes, particularly if paired with IBM's Roentgen chips.

Getting costs down to size will be a matter of applying printing technologies to chip fab. Cambrdige Display and Litrex are already moving into production on print-on-LCD's.

The most innovative display technology to date though, is iridigm's interferometric display. It's bloody brilliant. If only they would change the MEMs over to piezo and use some UV holography to make it planar (parallel) addressable, they would have the perfect display...