Cubicon Sees the IoT as an Opportunity for a Restart
The world they were planning to leave was a technology mess. They had watched how, in their short lifetimes, software had evolved from an obscure, tedious ritual practiced in large basements where the soundtrack mixed the hum of a room-sized mainframe computer with the whirr of Hollerith card readers, punctuated by the clatter of card punches, all the way to a commodity skill whose practitioners far outnumbered the dwindling numbers of hardware designers. Grade-school kids could now write software – either to run on their own computers or on some machine purportedly located in some cloud somewhere. And through this process, new languages picked up from old languages. New paradigms replaced old ones. Single-thread architectures and assumptions gave way to parallel processors. Native compilation ceded to virtual machines, multiples of which could coexist within a single hardware machine.
Intuition and HMI with eyeSight Technologies
Evolution is the name of the game in this week’s Fish Fry. The way we interact with our machines has changed dramatically in the past decade and will continue to evolve - from buttons and toggles to new, more hands-free forms of human-machine interface (HMI). I chat with Tal Krzypow from eyeSight Technologies about the future of HMI. We look at the growing trend toward hands-free interfaces, the important role intuition plays in the design of HMI, and where HMI is headed in the years to come. Also this week, we check out Element14’s new “DreamBoard vs Battle of the Boards” contest.
Flexible Silicon and Plastic Circuits
For some years, when I have travelled, my passport has been stowed in my hip pocket. This has worked well (apart from the incident with the cool wash cycle) but did mean that my passport developed a firm curve. Earlier this year I needed a new passport, and when it arrived, there was a firm instruction: "Do not Bend". This is, presumably, because it has a chip inside, and, as we all know, silicon does not bend. But when you talk to, among others, Gerhard Klink of the Fraunhofer Institute's "Group Polytronic Technologies" in Munich, he can show silicon bending. It is easy, really. You start with a standard wafer, build up your circuit on one side, and then remove the back side of the wafer mechanically until you achieve a thickness of less than 25 microns. (The technology for making wafers thinner has been well developed for MEMS sensors and related products.) At this thickness, it is possible to bend silicon easily.
The Next Evolutionary Step After FPGAs?
It’s just semantics, right?
With the fast-paced evolution of electronic engineering, it’s difficult to maintain a context, a sense of perspective, a mental tourist map of the technological universe with a big red “You Are Here” star that helps us understand how everything relates to everything else. Humans have an instinctive need for situational awareness, and we crave some lynchpins to which we can make fast our psychological ships - preventing them from drifting aimlessly into the gray chaotic expanse of static noise.
One of the tricks that helps us keep our frame of reference is labeling. These devices are “MCUs,” these are “CPUs,” these are “Memories,” and these are “FPGAs.” Once we have a label for a thing, we can stereotype and generalize, abstracting away the specific details and gaining a higher sense of our environment - like climbing a tower to survey the surrounding terrain.
Software is Complicated, But How Much of it is Useful?
“We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns – the ones we don't know we don't know.” – Donald Rumsfeld Consider the humble ladder. It’s a hardware device that’s elegant in its simplicity. Two parallel side rails, with evenly spaced rungs in between. Everything you need; nothing you don’t. Ladders can be made of wood, metal, Fiberglas, or other materials. There are long ones, short ones, portable ones, and permanent ones. Nobody really needs to be taught how to use a ladder, although there are some standard safety rules that might make your tenure at the top a bit more secure.
The HSA Foundation’s New SoC Architecture
So you’ve got some compute-intensive work to do, and you need the results really fast. OK, well, here: I wrote some code that takes full advantage of the nifty multicore processor so that it can run multiple calculations at the same time and get it all done so much faster. Oh, wait, you didn’t want to use the CPU cores? You wanted to use the GPU? Dang… OK, well, let me go recode this and get right back to you. Oh, you wanted to use the GPU only for that one part, but not the other? Hmmm… OK, gimme a sec here to go recode that. Wait, you want it to be portable?? Not gonna happen.