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.
In 2002, Creative acquired 3Dlabs, a fabless chip maker that specialises in fully programmable media-rich application processors (I took that from Wikipedia, I must admit), geared towards the embedded market. Combining 3Dlabs’s expertise with 1 billion dollars of research money led to the birth of a concept the company has called stemcell computing.
As most of you will know, stemcells are cells that have not yet been assigned a job, so to speak. In other words, these cells are programmable to become any cell of the human body, and therefore, they could aid in treating, and possibly curing, several diseases and other health problems. I’m no biologist though, so I’m sure any possible biology buffs will correct me.
Creative has applied the concept of stem cells to a new processor called the ZMS-05, which consists of two ARM-926 cores, accompanied by a set of 48 programmable ‘processing elements’, which can develop in real-time into performing any of the specialised acceleration functions needed by modern computing. They claim that the Zii can playback HD content effortlessly, and can even display 3D games without any problems.
To make it all even more interesting, the Zii system-on-chips can be linked without any problems, and Creative says that they can achieve a teraflop of processing power on a computer the size of an A4 paper. They also claim Zii’s can be linked to up to petaflop levels. The demos on the Zii.com website are quite impressive – powering two high-definition displays with just that tiny soc is just plain impressive.
Creative will market the Zii platform through Zii Labs, a wholly owned subsidiary(effectively 3Dlabs renamed). They are targeted at the embedded market, such as media players, mobile phones, and navigation devices.