Linked by Thom Holwerda on Fri 9th Jan 2009 22:20 UTC, submitted by Almar
Hardware, Embedded Systems Late last year, Creative launched a website and teaser campaign for a new product called Zii, with the only clue being its tagline: "Stemcell computing". While you can argue whether or not it's smart to focus attention on such a sensitive subject, the product that has rolled out of this campaign today is quite tantalising.
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Terrible name?
by noamsml on Fri 9th Jan 2009 22:48 UTC
noamsml
Member since:
2005-07-09

Why did they call it StemCell Computing if, according to the meagre info in the press release, it's not in any way related to human stem cells?

Reply Score: 3

RE: Terrible name?
by unclefester on Fri 9th Jan 2009 23:33 UTC in reply to "Terrible name?"
unclefester Member since:
2007-01-13

They explained the name in the press release. A stem cell is a non-specialised cell that can become any other type of cell. The stemcell processor is a generalist processor that can do many tasks.

Reply Score: 4

RE[2]: Terrible name?
by Soulbender on Mon 12th Jan 2009 15:39 UTC in reply to "RE: Terrible name?"
Soulbender Member since:
2005-08-18

The stemcell processor is a generalist processor that can do many tasks.


Uh, just like X86 and most popular processors we have now?
Come on, calling it Stemcell is just a PR stunt. A rather clever one, you might say, but a stunt none the less.

Reply Score: 3

RE: Terrible name?
by Googol on Fri 9th Jan 2009 23:40 UTC in reply to "Terrible name?"
Googol Member since:
2006-11-24

now they didn't call it human, did they? And the only reason you only hear about human stem cells in the media is because those are relevant to human medicine, of course. Most organisms will have stem cells. And so they called it that because it can adopt any function, much like any stem cell - not so far fetched, is it?

Reply Score: 3

RE: Terrible name?
by jeanmarc on Sat 10th Jan 2009 07:13 UTC in reply to "Terrible name?"
jeanmarc Member since:
2005-07-06

Heck, I thought it was a new nitendo ;)

Reply Score: 4

noamsml
Member since:
2005-07-09

So it's a dual-core ARM processor with a very powerful (and interesting) graphics card that is not really explained in any materials I can find. On the plus side the clock speed suggests they've got power under control (max 266MHz), but they don't quote watts and general-purpose FLOP numbers. The address space is only 1GB, which is a questionable decision when the world is moving to 64-bit to get more than 4GB. Some of the media processor materials quote the figure of 100GFlops (for the media unit only?), which isn't supercomputer power, really.

Too little information is given to know whether this is something to be excited about or just another lark.

Reply Score: 5

Thom_Holwerda Member since:
2005-06-29

So it's a dual-core ARM processor with a very powerful (and interesting) graphics card that is not really explained in any materials I can find.


There is no graphics card.

It's got a dualcore ARM processor accompanied by 48 programmable processing engines that are capable of switching - in real-time - towards performing specific acceleration tasks.

This processor does all the work you see in the demonstration videos, linked to in the "read more" section.

Reply Score: 2

videos were amusing
by _txf_ on Sat 10th Jan 2009 00:47 UTC
_txf_
Member since:
2008-03-17

arg.. The speaker in those demo videos is so utterly snide and stuffed to the brim with hyberbole.

I'll believe it when I see real world benchmarks,numbers and not pretty presentations.

The gains they show in zii vs conventional processors just don't seem possible these days. It might provide (significant) gains but certainly not the levels they seem to imply.

I did think it was pretty neat that they used Big Buck Bunny in one of the videos

Reply Score: 5

Comment by merkoth
by merkoth on Sat 10th Jan 2009 03:11 UTC
merkoth
Member since:
2006-09-22

Seems interesting. Keeping obvious differences aside, it kinda reminds me of the Cell processor: A central unit and a bunch of less powerful side processing units.

I'd love to have one (or a few) of these in something similar to the BeagleBoard.

Reply Score: 4

RE: Comment by merkoth
by Moochman on Sat 10th Jan 2009 14:29 UTC in reply to "Comment by merkoth"
Moochman Member since:
2005-07-06

That's exactly what I was thinking while watching the video on zii.com. Not only the architechture, but the use cases (image processing, HD video and 3D graphics) look exactly like those for which Sony and Toshiba are pitching the Cell.

The main difference seems to be that the Zii targets portable devices whereas the Cell to my knowledge does not.

Edited 2009-01-10 14:37 UTC

Reply Score: 2

RE: Comment by merkoth
by StephenBeDoper on Sat 10th Jan 2009 16:15 UTC in reply to "Comment by merkoth"
StephenBeDoper Member since:
2005-07-06

The first thing that came to my mind was Be's original prototypes for the BeBox, which used multiple AT&T Hobbit CPUs in much the same way.

Reply Score: 2

Stem cells aren't "sensitive"
by jack_perry on Sat 10th Jan 2009 03:17 UTC
jack_perry
Member since:
2005-07-06

Thom, stem cells per se are not generally a sensitive subject. Adult stem cells, for example, generally raise no ethical hassles; nor do stem cells obtained from a placenta, or from umbilical cord blood.

What is a sensitive subject is embryonic stem cells, since some people object to the killing of a human embryo to obtain them.

Reply Score: 3

Transmeta
by jack_perry on Sat 10th Jan 2009 03:18 UTC
jack_perry
Member since:
2005-07-06

How does this idea of a programmable processing unit differ from Transmeta's Big Thing? (which incidentally seems to have fallen completely off the radar--what happened to them anyway?)

Reply Score: 3

RE: Transmeta
by Brendan on Sat 10th Jan 2009 09:30 UTC in reply to "Transmeta"
Brendan Member since:
2005-11-16

Hi,

How does this idea of a programmable processing unit differ from Transmeta's Big Thing? (which incidentally seems to have fallen completely off the radar--what happened to them anyway?)


Transmeta died, or more correctly, in 2005 they restructured and became a corporation that licenses low power semiconductor intellectual property.

Their processors used something like JIT, where in theory it'd be possible to replace the CPU's JIT compiler with a JIT compiler for a different instruction set (but in practice there was never enough documentation to allow anyone to do this, and from what I've heard the CPU's native micro-ops were so close to 80x86 that other instruction sets weren't practical). Of course "something like JIT" may be an exaggeration, and it may have been something more like replaceable microcode.

I'm not too sure how Creative's 'processing elements' work - they sounds like FPGAs to me.

-Brendan

Reply Score: 2

=! stem cell
by evert on Sat 10th Jan 2009 10:31 UTC
evert
Member since:
2005-07-06

A real stemcell, once specialized into another cell, can never turn back or become another cell.

This "stemcell" electronics can be re-programmed, and as such are not stemcells but completely adaptive cells (which don't exist in the human body).

So it's only marketing speak. And who knows what else of their story is marketing speak.

Reply Score: 7

Lame name...
by milatchi on Sat 10th Jan 2009 19:09 UTC
milatchi
Member since:
2005-08-29

they should have called it the Revolution.

Reply Score: 1

C-One?
by -ujb- on Sat 10th Jan 2009 21:31 UTC
-ujb-
Member since:
2005-10-21

Reminds me somehow on the C-One-thing - reconfigureable computing. When I talked with Jeri Ellsworth some years ago, she gave me the impression that reconfigureable computing is the thing of the next computer revolution.
Unfortunately she left Jens alone on the C-One project...

Reply Score: 1

Basically a Cell variant
by bannor99 on Sat 10th Jan 2009 23:07 UTC
bannor99
Member since:
2005-09-15

After reading through some of the documentation, this is very much like a Cell processor, with some important differences.
The 2 ARM chips are 32-bit only: One runs the OS, the other is an application co-processor, whatever that means. While they hype the 24 media processing elements,
their docs clearly state that it's 3 arrays of 8, where each element of an array runs the same code.
This gives it a very strong Cell-like arch when compared to the PPE with multiple SPEs that the Cell employs.
Also, each Zii array cluster has its own DMA controller.

With only a 1 GB address space, its not taking over the desktop or the console but with the listed capabilities, we could be looking at some very cool and powerful toys.

Reply Score: 1

RE: Basically a Cell variant
by Panajev on Sat 10th Jan 2009 23:57 UTC in reply to "Basically a Cell variant"
Panajev Member since:
2008-01-09

After reading through some of the documentation, this is very much like a Cell processor, with some important differences.
The 2 ARM chips are 32-bit only: One runs the OS, the other is an application co-processor, whatever that means. While they hype the 24 media processing elements,
their docs clearly state that it's 3 arrays of 8, where each element of an array runs the same code.
This gives it a very strong Cell-like arch when compared to the PPE with multiple SPEs that the Cell employs.
Also, each Zii array cluster has its own DMA controller.

With only a 1 GB address space, its not taking over the desktop or the console but with the listed capabilities, we could be looking at some very cool and powerful toys.


To me it look a bit more like the SIMT (Single Instruction Multiple Threads) model nVIDIA introduced with CUDA, just that you can have up to three kernels executing at the same time, but I have not delved much into the Zii's architecture, but just reading off your comments and others...

Reply Score: 1

RE[2]: Basically a Cell variant
by bannor99 on Sun 11th Jan 2009 00:18 UTC in reply to "RE: Basically a Cell variant"
bannor99 Member since:
2005-09-15



To me it look a bit more like the SIMT (Single Instruction Multiple Threads) model nVIDIA introduced with CUDA, just that you can have up to three kernels executing at the same time, but I have not delved much into the Zii's architecture, but just reading off your comments and others...


Their docs call it a SIMD arch so I don't think you can run multiple simultaneous kernels - not on the array clusters anyway

Reply Score: 1

Interesting indeed
by kajaman on Sat 10th Jan 2009 23:18 UTC
kajaman
Member since:
2006-01-06

Linked web site is interesting... but full of marketing and not much technical details.

Other thing got my attention, they used Big Buck Bunny movie fragments ;) .

Reply Score: 1

same as PS3 cpu?
by RRepster on Mon 12th Jan 2009 19:58 UTC
RRepster
Member since:
2008-06-18

Sounds like creative's answer to the IBM CPU that's in PS3's.

Reply Score: 1