Edinburgh,March 2015 – A European consortium has completed a three-year project to research and develop the next generation of low-power high-performance Graphics Processing Units (GPUs) to be used in future games consoles and mobile devices. The EU funded project called LPGPU has resulted in a number of world-first technological advances and breakthroughs, putting Europe at the forefront of development for next-generation low-power high-performance mobile and videogame graphics technology.
The results of the project provide three major benefits to consumers and European businesses. Firstly, they allow an improvement in the quality of games and other entertainment on mobile devices, since graphics rendering techniques that were just a few years ago possible only on power-hungry game consoles, are now feasible on tablet computers. Secondly, techniques developed within the project enable game developers to design higher quality games in shorter time. Consequently, game prices might go down, or new games may become available on the market faster. Finally, the outcome of the project allows increasing the battery lifetime of mobile and wearable devices such as tablets, smartphones, and smartwatches. In particular smartwatches, which most major manufacturers are now producing, rarely last for up to a day of continuous use on a single battery charge. Purchasers of digital watches, however, are used to months if not years of battery life. To get to that point still requires significant research and development.
The consortium, consisting of four high-potential SMEs and two universities, produced in a joint effort the world’s first accurate power simulation framework. This framework allows replacing current trial-and-error approaches that require several extremely expensive hardware production cycles, thereby saving lots of time and money. Another major outcome of the project is an exciting new programming model for modern graphics hardware called SYCL for OpenCL. This programming model fully exploits GPU hardware capabilities and is portable across different hardware solutions, making gaming software usable on different platforms with minor effort, thus providing SMEs with new business opportunities. The LPGPU consortium member Codeplay pushes the new programming model to become a new standard within the influential standards body “The Khronos Group”. Another major breakthrough for the project is the porting of advanced lighting techniques to mobile platforms such as iPads as well as other tablets. Lighting techniques such as ray-tracing and real-time radiosity are used in computer graphics to calculate the illumination due to light sources. The project has enabled Geomerics’ Enlighten technology to run on mobile devices, meaning that what was possible a few years ago only on game consoles (dissipating about 100 Watt power) is now possible on tablets (in a power budget of only about 3 Watt).
The technological breakthroughs of the project have also achieved significant economic impact. The excellence of the achieved results within the LPGPU project motivated the multinational low-power semiconductor and software design company ARM to acquire Geomerics, thereby creating new business opportunities for both companies. ARM is dominant in the market of processors for cell phones and tablet computers. Also the other three SMEs in the project – Edinburgh-based Codeplay, Vienna-based AiGameDev.com, and Think Silicon, a Greek ultra-low power graphics semiconductor IP core company – have extended their existing portfolios and created new business models. As a direct consequence they hired new people. Finally, the two European universities in the consortium - consortium leader TU Berlin (Germany) and Uppsala University (Sweden) – are in the progress of spinning off two start-ups in order to commercialise technologies that have been developed in the project.