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November 9, 2006

Will the real Adrianne Curry please stand up?


Don Clark, in today's Wall Street Journal (WSJ), wrote about Nvidia's new graphics chip, the GeForce 8800, unveiled yesterday in San Jose, California to an audience of over a thousand gamers, high-tech executives, analysts and reporters.

Long story short: Look carefully at the image above: is it live — i.e., the real Adrianne Curry — or Invidia?

To all those who say "joe, computer graphics are just made-up stuff, they're no substitute for reality, " I say, "Really?"

Here's the WSJ article.

    Nvidia's Powerful Chip Moves Closer to 'Reality'

    Graphics Product Captures Moving Shoulder Blades, Adrianne's Authentic Pout

    Silicon Valley companies have long tried to make computerized creations look real. Nvidia Corp. thinks it's gotten so close that only a real woman could prove the point.

    The company, known for chips that manage graphics on personal computers and other gadgets, has a tradition of using simulated female characters to demonstrate the capabilities of each new technology generation. To show off its latest new graphics chip, Nvidia this time has enlisted Adrianne Curry, a reality-television star who agreed to have her body and movements scanned to create a three-dimensional model — one so lifelike, it seems like a camera rather than a computer generated it.

    Nvidia made this digital model of actress Adrianne Curry to show off its new chip.
    Ms. Curry, known from VH1's "The Surreal Life" and "My Fair Brady," is a logical draw for Nvidia's traditional audience — the largely male gamers who shell out hundreds of dollars on circuit boards to give their personal computers an edge in playing the latest games. But Nvidia has much broader ambitions for its eighth generation of technology, unveiled yesterday at an event in San Jose, Calif.

    The company spent $400 million and more than four years developing what it calls the GeForce 8800, an effort that required fundamental design changes. Where it once developed circuitry that handled just one task, such as drawing a pixel on a computer screen, Nvidia's new chip has 128 processors that can handle more varied jobs, along with features to help them work together in new ways.

    As a result, Nvidia expects its technology to be used in special-purpose computers and accelerator devices to help existing machines take on jobs such as weather forecasting, running financial simulations and rendering images from medical scanning equipment.

    "It will open up a whole new class of computing," says Jen-Hsun Huang, Nvidia's chief executive officer.

    Others have similar ideas. Some scientists have already experimented with building computers out of graphics chips. Longtime rival ATI Technologies Inc., a Canadian company recently purchased by Advanced Micro Devices Inc., in September announced similar plans to promote its chips for use in what it calls "stream computing."

    But most analysts believe Nvidia's GeForce 8800 puts it ahead of ATI, which isn't expected to announce its next generation of graphics until the first half of next year.

    "This is such a killer product," said Jon Peddie, an analyst in Tiburon, Calif., who specializes in the graphics market. "Nvidia has just done everything right."

    An ATI spokesman declined to comment, other than to say ATI is "very comfortable" with its position in the technology race.

    The two companies' plans are heavily influenced by Microsoft Corp., which sets standards in graphics that are followed by both hardware designers and programmers who create computer games. Nvidia says its new chip is the first tailored for DirectX 10, a new set of Microsoft programming instructions that work with its long-awaited Vista operating system.

    The combination of hardware and software shifts chores that once burdened a PC's microprocessor — its primary electronic brain — to the specialized circuitry of the graphics chip.

    In the future, game designers might use such technology to generate landscapes automatically rather than manually drawing up virtual worlds as they have done up to now.

    Nvidia's new chip has some 681 million transistors, more than double the number of a prior-generation chip announced in June 2005. By contrast, Intel Corp.'s heavily promoted Core 2 Duo microprocessors for high-end PCs have 291 million transistors. Nvidia plans to package the new chip in add-in cards for PCs for $599, with a lower-end version priced at $449.

    Kelt Reeves, president of the gaming PC company Falcon Northwest, said his company's tests have found that systems with two of the new Nvidia cards are 41% faster than systems with four of its existing cards. Computer game fans "will see an amazing visual difference," he said.

    The difference was demonstrated by Nvidia yesterday to more than a thousand gamers, high-tech executives, analysts and reporters in a series of huge tents erected in downtown San Jose. Besides demonstrations of a series of highly realistic shoot'em-up games, a highlight of the event was the first public showing of the virtual version of Ms. Curry, which strutted around on a huge display screen in a small, tight bathing suit.

    Capturing her image realistically required gluing reflective dots all over her body and taking hundreds of pictures over five hours, Ms. Curry said in an interview. The result shows such details as her shoulder blades moving under skin as she walks; a user can zoom in and see almost every pore in her face.

    The system also captured some of her characteristic facial expressions, including pouts that were pronounced as authentic by Ms. Curry's real-life husband Christopher Knight, the former "Brady Bunch" star who co-stars with her on "My Fair Brady" and joined her at the event.

    Such technology could allow stars to create and license full-motion replicas of themselves for myriad commercial uses, without ever having to make a physical appearance. Nvidia and Ms. Curry haven't worked out how they plan to use the model, though she said she hopes to post a version on her Web site and perhaps show it on the TV show. Mr. Knight, who once worked in the computer-graphics industry, said he and Ms. Curry needed some reassurance that the model couldn't be misused for purposes such as creating animated pornography with her image.

    She also admitted to some misgivings about aiding technology advances that eventually replace actors and models. "In a few years when this is ultimately perfected, we start losing jobs," Ms. Curry said. "And I helped."


Just wait.



call your office: They're [nearly] ready for you....

November 9, 2006 at 04:01 PM | Permalink


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