As the wars between console manufacturers begins to heat up, GEOFFREY TIM, speaks to the Sony PlayStation 4 lead architect, Mark Cerny, to find out how they have improved the next generation console.
The next generation wars are heating up. Microsoft has announced that they’ll be ready to show the world the next Xbox on May 21 and we’ve heard a fair deal about Sony’s PlayStation 4, including details of its architecture.
Speaking to technology magazine, Gamasutra, Sony’s PlayStation 4 lead architect, Mark Cerny, has gone in to a little more depth about the design choices that were made in designing the system’s innards, which they’re calling ‚”Supercharged PC architecture.‚”
What the heck do they mean by supercharged? Well, it’s all a little technical and complicated but Cerny and Sony’s other hardware engineers have spent long hours trying to come up with a system that isn’t held back by the sort of bottlenecks you get on PCs.
“A typical PC GPU has two buses,”” said Cerny. “”There’s a bus the GPU uses to access VRAM, and there is a second bus that goes over the PCI Express that the GPU uses to access system memory. But whichever bus is used, the internal caches of the GPU become a significant barrier to CPU/GPU communication ‚Äî any time the GPU wants to read information the CPU wrote, or the GPU wants to write information so that the CPU can see it, time-consuming flushes of the GPU internal caches are required.‚””
So how does one get around that sort of thing? According to Cerny, they’ve made three fundamental changes to the architecture, to make it more efficient.
¬∑ “”Firstly, we added another bus to the GPU that allows it to read directly from system memory or write directly to system memory, bypassing its own L1 and L2 caches. As a result, if the data that’s being passed back and forth between CPU and GPU is small, you don’t have issues with synchronization between them anymore. And by small, I just mean small in next-gen terms. We can pass almost 20 gigabytes a second down that bus. That’s not very small in today’s terms ‚Äî it’s larger than the PCI express on most PCs!
¬∑ “”Next, to support the case where you want to use the GPU L2 cache simultaneously for both graphics processing and asynchronous compute, we have added a bit in the tags of the cache lines, we call it the ‚’volatile’ bit. You can then selectively mark all accesses by compute as ‚’volatile,’ and when it’s time for compute to read from system memory, it can invalidate, selectively, the lines it uses in the L2. When it comes time to write back the results, it can write back selectively the lines that it uses. This innovation allows compute to use the GPU L2 cache and perform the required operations without significantly impacting the graphics operations going on at the same time. In other words, it radically reduces the overhead of running compute and graphics together on the GPU.””
¬∑ Thirdly, said Cerny, “”The original AMD GCN architecture allowed for one source of graphics commands, and two sources of compute commands. For PS4, we’ve worked with AMD to increase the limit to 64 sources of compute commands ‚Äî the idea is if you have some asynchronous compute you want to perform, you put commands in one of these 64 queues, and then there are multiple levels of arbitration in the hardware to determine what runs, how it runs, and when it runs, alongside the graphics that’s in the system.””
You can quite plainly see that Sony’s hardware architects have put a heck of a lot of thought (of the forward-thinking variety) in to the system, and have learned from their past mistakes. The PS4 is going to be a beast, utilising a custom designed, more efficient take on existing PC hardware that should be an absolute dream for game developers.
There’s a lot more to it in Gamasutra’s 3-page in-depth look at what the PS4 offers and it’s well worth a look if you’re even remotely interested in the PS4’s hardware.
* Article courtesy of Lazygamer.net. Follow Geoffrey Tim on Twitter on @WobblyOnion
Google Home and Amazon Echo come to South Africa
The devices are directly imported from the USA by Cellucity, but are ICASA-approved and carry a local warranty
The Cellucity retail chain has announced that it will bring a wide range of Google and Amazon gadgets into South Africa for the festive season. It will be launching the Google home range of smart speakers, as well as Google’s Chromecast smart TV device and a range of Amazon products.
The company said in a statement: “Smart home speakers are all the rage right now – not only fun and entertaining; they are also useful at helping you plan your day. Set the alarm – no problem, check the weather – no problem. Check the traffic; yes, you probably guessed it – no problem! And, with the festive period around the corner, they make the ideal gift whether you are tech-savvy or a newbie to the world of IoT.
“We are not ones to shy away from trends and are excited to be able to offer a range of smart speakers. For our Google lovers, we are happy to be launching the Google Home range.”
The Google Home Mini is a stylish compact speaker with all the functionality of Google Assistant. Users can ask it questions or give it commands, hands-free. Although the Google Mini offers exceptional clarity of sound, those looking for a bit of oomph will probably look to the Google Home Assistant Smart Speaker. As with the Google Mini, the Google Home offers Google Assistant but offers enhanced sound, bass and far-field voice recognition.
“If you are looking for more than just a smart speaker, check out the Smart Home Hub,” advises Cellucity. “With all the functionality of the Google Smart Mini and Home, the Home Hub doubles as a digital photo frame and offers the advantage of video playback.
The following Google Home products can be purchased either upfront or added on to selected Vodacom contracts at Cellucity:
- Google Home Mini at R899, or from R40 per month as an add-on to selected Vodacom contract packages.
- Google Home Smart at R2499
- Google Home Hub from R2499, or R90 per month as an add-on to selected Vodacom contract packages.
For TV viewers, Cellucity has launched Google Chromecast, which connects to any smart TV. It’s compact and mobile so can br taken with on holiday. The Chromecast, which is ideal for bringing Netflix or Showmax to a smart TV, will be available from R849.
For those looking to Amazon products, Cellucity is launching the Amazon Echo speakers 2nd and 3rd Gen at R999 and R1499 respectively. It is also offering the Amazon Firestick 4K, allowing users to stream shows and content in 4K. The Firestick will be available from R1299.
All the Google Home and Amazon products are easy to pair with both Android and iOS.
It is important to note that all features may not yet be available in South Africa, particularly with Amazon products, but Cellucity says it is working on it. The devices have been imported directly from the USA, but have been ICASA approved and will carry a local warranty.
Fitbit Pay moves into 7 transit systems globally
Wristband’s payments will now be accepted in New York, Chicago, Singapore, Sydney, and Taiwan.
Fitbit has announced that Fitbit Pay is available for consumers to use at seven major transit systems around the world.
Fitbit also announced it will be part of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s (MTA) One Metro New York (OMNY) contactless fare payment pilot program. Any user in New York with Fitbit Charge 3 Special Edition, Fitbit Versa Special Edition and Fitbit Ionic devices will be able to securely and easily tap and pay-per-ride directly from their wrist on select MTA busses and subway lines, providing the convenience to keep their smartphones and wallets tucked away.
Starting May 31, Fitbit users with Fitbit Pay-enabled smartwatches and trackers can tap and pay to board all Staten Island buses, and all stops on the 4, 5 and 6 subway lines between Grand Central and Atlantic Avenue-Barclays Center. This pilot program marks the beginning of a long-term relationship with the MTA, with plans to extend the organization’s OMNY program to the entire subway and bus system by 2021.
“We’re excited to work with Fitbit and others to help us provide added value and everyday convenience to our customers,” said Al Putre, OMNY Executive Director at the MTA. “We are always looking for ways to enhance the transit experience and help New Yorkers and visitors alike get to their destination faster and make payment more convenient, and now they can do so with any Fitbit wearable that supports Fitbit Pay with a simple tap of the wrist.”
In addition to bringing Fitbit Pay to one of the largest and busiest public transit systems in the world with the MTA, Fitbit continues to expand its global transit system capabilities to serve commuters and travelers from all over. Fitbit Pay can now be used across seven open and closed loop transit systems, including Chicago Transit Authority (CTA), Singapore Land Transport Authority (LTA), Sydney transport for New South Wales (NSW) train, ferry and light rail services, Taiwan iPASS, TransLink in Vancouver and Transport for London (TfL), with plans to bring Fitbit Pay to more global transit systems in the future.
“In addition to helping our users get healthier and more active, we’re committed to delivering holistic experiences on our trackers and smartwatches that help keep our 27 million active users engaged,” said James Park, CEO and co-founder of Fitbit. “As we expand the use of Fitbit Pay to work with the MTA and other major transit systems around the globe, we are enabling our on-the-go customers to safely and easily pay for transit with devices that are broadly compatible and have long battery life – all making it easier to go about their day.”
In less than two years, Fitbit Pay is now available in 42 countries and supported by more than 300 of the world’s leading banks and credit unions through American Express,1Mastercard and Visa networks. Through a few quick and easy steps, Fitbit users can add up to six credit or debit cards to their Fitbit Wallet in the Fitbit app on Android or iOS mobile devices. Using the NFC chip built-into select Fitbit smartwatches and trackers, Fitbit Pay users can easily pay for items at millions of stores worldwide wherever contactless payments are accepted.
All Fitbit Pay transactions use an industry standard tokenization platform, ensuring users’ card information is never revealed or shared with merchants or Fitbit. For added security, a protected PIN is chosen by the user during device set-up. Users are also covered by their bank’s fraud protection and continue to enjoy the advantages conferred by their bank or credit card, including guarantees, insurance coverage, points and miles, without having to take out their wallets. For more information about Fitbit Pay, supported banks and transit systems, visit Fitbit.com/Fitbit-Pay.