In previous blogs we’ve looked at the scalability of the Mali™ family of GPUs which allows partners’ implementations to be tailored to fit all levels of device across multiple price, performance and area points. We’ve also taken a closer look at a high performance Mali implementation in Nibiru’s standalone VR headsets.
This time we’re exploring the other end of the Mali spectrum: Ultra low power. Today, the most shipped GPU in the world is still the Mali-400. Based on our original Utgard architecture, Mali-400 is the GPU of choice for devices where minimizing power consumption is key. Since the Mali-400 GPU was released, further optimizations have been applied in the design and implementation of subsequent Ultra-low power GPUs, Mali-450 and Mali-470.
As you’ll know if you’ve read my previous blogs, VR places a whole lot of pressure on the power and thermal limitations of the mobile form factor. To ensure a great, immersive experience you need a solid framerate, high resolution and super low latency, amongst other things. To achieve this for top end content like AAA gaming can often require the highest performance hardware and a greater power budget than can be supported by a mid-range SoC. That, however, doesn’t necessarily mean you need to queue up and pay out for the next big flagship smartphone just to get on board with mobile VR.
In the tech industry it can often take a long time for high end content, use cases, or applications to become sufficiently well understood and developed to trickle down to the more mainstream device. The beauty of mobile VR is that the flexibility of the medium means you’re not locked out altogether just because you don’t want to spend on a top of the line device. In spite of the comparatively recent take off of VR products, every day use cases are already starting to become available and accessible to all on mainstream hardware. Whilst you wouldn’t want to try high end gaming (you’d almost certainly feel sick, if your system handled it at all) there are other, arguably more useful, ways in which the virtual world can change our lives.
Virtual spaces are where VR can meet mainstream devices to support a vast majority of business, social and communications needs. Whether you want to collaborate with overseas colleagues or just catch up with friends, virtual spaces allow you to interact in a more lifelike manner and can be supported in a much lower power budget than more complex content. The beauty of this concept is that there’s no need to navigate around a fully interactive virtual environment as you need to for VR gaming. Users can be limited to a smaller setting such a virtual boardroom, bar or café, which reduces the rendering complexity. This means you don’t need the highest performance SoC to support devices targeted at this type of content, as one of our innovative partners has recently shown.
Actions Semiconductor (Actions) is a leading Chinese fabless semiconductor company providing dedicated multimedia SoC solutions for mobile devices. Founded in 2001 and publically listed in 2005, Actions now has ~700 employees and one of the most informed and influential engineering teams in the industry.
One of their most recent products, the V700, is an SoC expressly designed for the cost-efficient end of the virtual reality market. Based on a 64-bit Quad-core ARM® Cortex®-A53 processor with TrustZone® Security system, graphics are provided by the powerful but highly efficient Mali-450 MP6 GPU. This provides maximized 3D/2D graphics processing delivering excellent rendering within a very small power and bandwidth budget, making it ideal for mid-range standalone VR devices.
When asked why they chose the ARM Mali family of processors for this device Actions explained that it was very important to them to enable high quality VR content for the mainstream market. Not everyone is interested in spending vast sums of money on emerging technologies, particularly when there’s still some (in my opinion, misplaced) skepticism in the industry about the uptake of VR. Supporting VR content such as virtual spaces for social and business uses allows more people to access and utilize this exciting new technology. The superior power and bandwidth saving features of the products in the Mali Multimedia Suite make them the perfect choice for such a power hungry application as VR. In-built optimizations and synchronized technologies such as ARM Frame Buffer Compression and TrustZone allow our partners to achieve the high quality and security they need without limiting uptake to high-earning consumers.
It’s always great to see partners like Actions take such leaps in supporting exciting new Mali-based products and it will be interesting to watch the emergence of virtual spaces for the mainstream user in the coming months.