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Monday, October 31, 2005
Sony's Kutaragi Praises Cell

Ken Kutaragi, President and Group CEO, Sony Computer Entertainment (SCE) talked about the technologies roadmap related to Cell microprocessor, at the last week's Tokyo International Digital Conference.

Jointly developed by Sony, Toshiba and IBM, the Cell microprocessor will power the PlayStation 3 as wel as future HD televisions.

Kutaragi showcased a video game software currently developed for the PS3. He used Sony's 4K SXRD projector that is able to project images with resolutions of 4000 x 2000 and a HDCAM SR (Superior Resolution ) video used by broadcasting companies.

Sony's boss then picked video streaming frame rates as a high potential future technology. Compared to the current TVs' 50-60 fields per second and PCs' 72-90 frames per second (fps), the PS3 is expected to display images at 120 fps, in line with future image interface specifications.

Commenting on frame rates, he also indicated the potential of the combined use of image input and high-speed frame rate technologies. He said that the PS3 will likely develop a new type of computer entertainment, in which, for example, the game console will swiftly analyze the meaning of images shot with a connected high-speed camera and will input the results to a game.

Kutaragi also disclosed some ideas of how to use high definition, large screen displays. The ideas included displaying a newspaper in real size, simultaneous playback of numerous HDTV videos and video chat. Above all, Kutaragi emphasized the simultaneous display of many HDTV videos. He insisted the Cell will enable such TVs not only to decode more than ten HDTV signals at the same time, but also to enlarge and rotate images.

He also mentioned the possibility of online games using huge computer resources available at remote locations. Introducing a server environment at Sony Pictures Entertainment (SPE) currently used in filmmaking, he described it as "nothing but an online game, in which users log in a server from outside." By saying so, he pointed out that filmmaking environments can be applied to online games.

Kutaragi also proposed a cluster server using the Cell as a future server environment. A rack design combining 16 units, each of which consists of eight 2.5 GHz Cell microprocessors, can achieve an operation rate of 25.6 TFLOPS. With 40 of these racks installed in a room, an operation rate is estimated to reach 1 PFLOPS (petaFLOPS).

Furthermore, citing a scene from "2001: A Space Odyssey," a movie directed by Stanley Kubrick, where an actor's lips are read through the window, Kutaragi also suggested the Cell's applicability for a recognition system. He described SCE's "EyeToy," which inputs information through a device using a compact camera, as a forerunner of such systems.

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