AI, mind-reading mice, and 3D displays

Intel acquired Israeli-based chip maker Habana Labs in 2019 to advance its AI strategy and strengthen its portfolio of AI accelerators for the cloud and data center. The deal was worth approximately $2 billion. Was it a good deal?

Jon Peddie

Intel acquired Israeli-based chip maker Habana Labs in 2019 to advance its AI strategy and strengthen its portfolio of AI accelerators for the cloud and data center. The deal was worth approximately $2 billion. Was it a good deal?

It’s shaping up. This week at the AWS re: Invent 2020 conference, AWS CEO Andy Jassy Introduced elastic computing (EC2) instances that will use up to eight Habana Gaudi accelerators and, says AWS, based on AWS internal testing they’ll deliver up to 40% better price-performance than current graphics processing unit-based EC2 instances for machine learning workloads.

Habana accelerators in a box. (Source: Intel)


Gaudi accelerators are specifically designed for training deep learning models for workloads that include natural language processing, object detection, and machine learning training, classification, recommendation, and personalization. The Habana acquisition was part of Intel's shift to delivering XPUs—a mix of architectures across CPUs, GPUs, FPGAs. Intel will now have two solutions for ML/DL training, the Habana processors, and the forthcoming dGPU. New training sets will be directed to Habana most likely and legacy sets to the dGPU.

Speaking of dGPUs, Intel has also won sockets for its XG310 AIB with Chinese streaming giants Tencent and Unitus. Intel introduced this server AIB in mid-November this year. The AIB has four Xe LP-based GPUs and each GPU has 8GB LPDDR4RAM. The announcement is further evidence of Intel’s brand power and running room in the market.

Meanwhile, streamers will soon have a new tool in their arsenal—a mind-reading mouse from Brink Bionics. This glove-like device senses the muscle signal information (electromyography) from the Dorsal Interossei Muscles in the users’ hand. And before the user’s muscle can contract and press the left mouse button, the fire command is sent to the online game. This, says the company, will give a player an advantage from 50 ms to 150 ms. Will tournament sponsors allow it, or have to set up a special class?

Brink Bionics’ muscle sensing mouse glove


A few weeks ago, we reported on Sony’s entry into the S3D market with a new lenticular display and eye-tracking to eliminate dead spots. Oh yeah?, said Looking Glass, developer of the lenticular displays that don’t require eye-tracking. Looking Glass has just introduced the Portrait display which is designed for images from mobile phones with depth cameras and new products with Lidar sensors. 


Looking Glass’ new personal 7.9-inch 3D display


With new smartphones like Apples’ s iPhone 12 Pro, one can capture 3D images that can be compiled and displayed on the new portrait display device. Those who want to get their hands on the Looking Glass Portrait display can go to the Looking Glass Kickstarter page here. Days 1 and 2 special pricing is $199. The Looking Glass Portrait display will start to ship on a first ordered, first-served basis in the first half of 2021. MSRP is $349.

For the VR crowd, Varjo continues to delight and surprise, twice the performance, ½ the price, from Varjo (the VR-2 and XR-1) plus some amazing new features such as built-in Lidar depth fusion in the new mixed reality XR-3 and VR3 HMDs. Pro-grade color calibration is in both models, and they are fully capable of withstanding UV-C disinfection and more.

Seeing things that aren’t there—or are they (Source: Varjo)


The firm has doubled the area that has very high resolution and which uses a micro-OLED that is 10X brighter than the previous generation. The company has also boosted the overall Field of View (FoV) to be 40% wider on the LCD that is used as the outer display at 115 degrees. The 12-megapixel custom LCD has a proprietary rolling backlight based on a miniLED backlight.

Qualcomm has kicked the venerable Snapdragon up another notch and announced the Snapdragon 888, which the company claims will triple-down on the future of computational photography and transform smartphones into professional-quality cameras.


Small and might, the new snapping dragon from Qualcomm. (Source: Qualcomm)


With the faster gigapixel speed Qualcomm Spectra ISP, users can capture photos and videos at 2.7 gigapixels per second or roughly 120 photos at 12MP resolution—up to 35% faster than the previous generation.

This week, the Khronos Group announced new standard extensions that will allow developers to achieve photorealism through rendering parameters that enable the physical properties of materials in 3D assets. glTF is the Khronos format for the widespread transfer of 3D scenes and models, known as the JPEG of 3D. These new next-generation physically based rendering (PBR) material extensions are for creators working with glTF. If employed they will enable the creation of powerful, realistic, and interoperable 3D content creation, which is especially important in eCommerce, art, education, and game development.

And last but far from least is Nvidia’s announcement of the RTX3060 gaming AIB. We did a review of it and ran some tests on it that can be seen here.

 Nvidia’s RTX 3060 Ti AIB


We found it to be a worthy, cost-effective gaming AIB that is easy to recommend.


It’s been a crazy busy week so far and more is promised with conferences from VFX, Qualcomm, Intel, and others.