Nvidia Barreling Ahead With Tegra 2 3D

Nvidia will reportedly ship a Tegra 2 3D processor, to be used in mobile devices, this year.

A slide from Nvidia’s planned presentation at the Mobile World Congress, to be held in Barcelona, Spain, in February, shows the Tegra 2 3D, according to the TechEye blog, which broke the news.

The slide also reportedly mentions the Tegra 3, which is a quad-core processor.

“I can’t provide specifics about future products, because we don’t comment on rumors or unannounced products,” Ken Brown, a spokesperson for Nvidia, told TechNewsWorld.

However, he did lend credence to the rumors about a possible 3D version of the Tegra.

“We’re really excited about bringing 3D capabilities to Tegra,” Brown said.

Possible Details about the Tegra 2 3D

The Tegra 2 3D reportedly will be based on an ARM Dual Cortex A9 processor, clocked at up to 1.2 GHz, and it will be able to handle 5,520 MIPS, or million instructions per second.

These statistics don’t differ much from those of the Tegra 2, which is already in production.

The Tegra 2 has a dual-core ARM Cortex A9 CPU. It also incorporates the ultra-low power Nvidia GeForce graphics processing unit, a 1080p video playback processor, a 1080p video encode processor, an image signal processor, an audio processor, and ARM7 processors.

Nvidia reportedly demoed five tablets based on the Tegra 2 at the Consumer Electronics Show, held in Las Vegas in January. They were from NotionInk, ICD, Compal, MSI and Foxconn.

Nvidia will reportedly begin producing the Tegra 2 3D in the first quarter.

The Power of 3D

3D devices — including smartphones, notebooks, mobile Internet devices and portable game players — will comprise more than 11 percent of the total mobile devices market by 2015, according to ABI Research.

Unlike 3D TVs, the mobile category has a fast replacement cycle, noted ABI’s Victoria Fodale,senior analyst, mobile devices. This means consumers are more likely to upgrade to a mobile device with 3D, and they’re likely to do it earlier than they would upgrade to a 3D TV.

There are two use cases specifically for 3D on mobile devices depending on the form factor and hardware specifications, Fodale told TechNewsWorld.

One of these is gaming — not only on smartphones with larger displays, but on tablets as well. The second is the playing of 3D content such as movies on mobile devices.

“At CES, I saw demonstrations of animated movies like ‘Shrek’ on mobile devices, and they looked really, really good,” Fodale said. “I was a skeptic, but I was convinced.”

Generations of 3D content will be enabled by the ability of still and video cameras to capture 3D images, Fodale said.

That will require some additional hardware components, such as stronger processors, as well as improvements in software to do the rendering, she added.

The Tegra ultra-low power GeForce graphics processing unit already has advanced 2D and 3D rendering capabilities, Nvidia’s Brown pointed out. Further, Tegra already supports 3D rendering used by leading gaming engines and for designing 3D user interfaces.

Tegra 3 Quad-Core Processors?

The same slide that shows the Tegra 2 3D apparently also shows the Tegra 3. This will reportedly have a 1.5 GHz quad-core processor and be more than twice as fast as the Tegra 2 line.

It will have an ultra-low power processor mode, and there will be two versions — one for a smartphone and one for a tablet — if the leaked information is accurate.

The Coming of 3D Mobile Devices

We probably won’t see 3D mobile devices out until later this year, ABI’s Fodale speculated.

That’s because the technology she thinks will most likely fit the bill won’t be available until then.

“There’s a number of different technologies that provide 3D capabilities, and the one that I find most applicable is parallax barrier technology,” said Fodale.

A parallax barrier consists of a layer of material with a series of slits that let each eye see a different set of pixels, so the viewer gets a 3D image without needing to wear 3D glasses. The problem with this technology is that the user must sit at exactly the right spot to experience the 3D effect. Further, the slits are vertical, which is problematic considering the rotation and tilt capabilities offered by mobile devices.

However, a new version of this technology uses cellular strips instead of vertical strips, which means users can rotate the screen and not lose the 3D image, Fodale said.

“I spoke with the company driving this approach at CES,” she added, “and they said we’re going to see this stuff happen towards the end of 2011.”

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