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It's VoIP, Jim, but not as we know it

nVidia CEO predicts tech developments

The future of wireless communications could be a world without mobile phones, where Wi-Fi signals pick up your voice commands from a chip-enabled lapel on your breast pocket, then VoIP (voice over IP) converts the voice signals to data and sends them across the internet to powerful servers that can identify the caller's voice and connect them immediately to the person they're trying to find.

The idea for such seamless voice communication isn't new. It's based on what was done in Star Trek, the source of most of today's great technology ideas, according to Jen-Hsun Huang, a Silicon Valley veteran and CEO of nVidia, during a speech at a Fabless Semiconductor Association meeting in Taipei.

It may seem odd for the head of one of the world's top graphics chip makers to forecast innovations in voice communications, but Huang said he was simply predicting possible developments based on technology available today, such as Wi-Fi, VoIP and voice-recognition software.

Huang, who co-founded Nvidia in 1993, also predicted innovations in the graphics industry. "In 10 years, you won't see a difference between a video game and a movie," he said, after screening a film clip that showed how far computer graphics have come since his company started.

Putting up a slide with a frame from one of the Spider-Man films, Huang said current technology requires a long time to render such a high-quality graphic. But in a decade, such rendering will be done in real time, he said.

The chips required to handle such work would need billions of transistors. nVidia sees its graphics processing units (GPU) crossing the one-billion-transistor mark around 2008, from just 302 million transistors in its latest GeForce 7 series GPUs, he said. By comparison, the company's first offering in 1993, the NV1, carried only one million transistors.

The number of transistors on an nVidia GPU could grow to 5.4 billion by 2013, he said, but the chip industry needs to work on reducing the amount of power a chip needs in order to put that many transistors on one piece of silicon.

Cutting-edge chips with hundreds of millions of transistors are simply running too hot, Huang said. "We will have to create the devices to cool these chips," he added. There are several ways companies are reducing power leakage, such as using dual cores or using slower transistors, he said, adding that he is confident the chip industry will continue to find new ways.


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