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Walter Soyka
OT: Inexact Computer Chip Challenges Traditional Thinking
on May 25, 2012 at 2:35:55 pm

Here's the good-enough revolution [link] as applied to computing.

From the Computer Graphics World article [link]:
Researchers have unveiled an "inexact" computer chip that challenges the industry's dogmatic 50-year pursuit of accuracy. The design improves power and resource efficiency by allowing for occasional errors.

The CGW article also has a couple reference frames showing image processing with inexact computing.

Walter Soyka
Principal & Designer at Keen Live
Motion Graphics, Widescreen Events, Presentation Design, and Consulting
RenderBreak Blog - What I'm thinking when my workstation's thinking
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Paul Dickin
Re: OT: Inexact Computer Chip Challenges Traditional Thinking
on May 25, 2012 at 2:59:05 pm

Hi
The Flip?
At 80% not good enough...
EOL'd because camera phones do it better.



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Walter Soyka
Re: OT: Inexact Computer Chip Challenges Traditional Thinking
on May 25, 2012 at 4:06:21 pm

[Paul Dickin] "The Flip? At 80% not good enough... EOL'd because camera phones do it better."

Right. The small, cheap, simple, good-enough Flip was defeated by the smaller, cheaper, simpler, and good-enough camera phone.

The "Good Enough Revolution" article basically says that the market is no longer allowing perfect to be the enemy of good. It's a couple years old now, so the tech examples are outdated, but I think the concept still applies.

For the first time in the history of computing, this inexact computer chip is trading off quality in the speed-cost-quality triangle. Every other computer chip has always offered quality, in that calculations were always 100% accurate.

If accuracy in computation is no longer a given, and I'll be very curious to see how this impacts those of us dealing with visuals. How many flaws in image processing are acceptable for increases in speed or efficiency?

Walter Soyka
Principal & Designer at Keen Live
Motion Graphics, Widescreen Events, Presentation Design, and Consulting
RenderBreak Blog - What I'm thinking when my workstation's thinking
Creative Cow Forum Host: Live & Stage Events


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Paul Dickin
Re: OT: Inexact Computer Chip Challenges Traditional Thinking
on May 25, 2012 at 4:43:11 pm

Hi
In our world the principle is long been a part of lossy codecs.
What's new is applying it to the direct SDI/HDMI output port as well as to the compressed chip data.



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Andrew Kimery
Re: OT: Inexact Computer Chip Challenges Traditional Thinking
on May 25, 2012 at 4:53:54 pm

[Walter Soyka] "
If accuracy in computation is no longer a given, and I'll be very curious to see how this impacts those of us dealing with visuals. How many flaws in image processing are acceptable for increases in speed or efficiency?"


Isn't compression a window into the levels of 'good enough' in the video world? Or, to go even beyond that, 24fps 35mm was the standard to meet even though faster frame rates and larger frame sizes existed but didn't pan out from a cost/benefit perspective.




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Walter Soyka
Re: OT: Inexact Computer Chip Challenges Traditional Thinking
on May 25, 2012 at 5:02:16 pm

[Andrew Kimery] "Isn't compression a window into the levels of 'good enough' in the video world?"

Somewhat -- but not quite what I'm talking about.

When lossy compression is performed with accurate calculations, the same source footage will always yield the same compressed results. When you can no longer take the accuracy of the calculation for granted, performing the same calculation on the same media may give you different results every time.

Compression also works on final frames, and different compression schemes have predictable kinds of artifacts.

What about when intermediate computations -- say, chroma keying -- are performed with inexact computing? Will you get unpredictable edge chatter?

Much like CPU/GPU, are there cases (perhaps like compression) where inexact calculations are more tolerable than cases like keying where they are not?

Walter Soyka
Principal & Designer at Keen Live
Motion Graphics, Widescreen Events, Presentation Design, and Consulting
RenderBreak Blog - What I'm thinking when my workstation's thinking
Creative Cow Forum Host: Live & Stage Events


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Clint Wardlow
Re: OT: Inexact Computer Chip Challenges Traditional Thinking
on May 25, 2012 at 5:48:32 pm

Bang it out as fast and painless as possible seems to be the mantra for our day.

As long as it is good enough for army work (a saying from my military days) 100% quality isn't the prime consideration. So a inexact computer chip seems made for our times. Or maybe that is just me being cynical.

The one thing that does intrigue me is that errors in video processing might yield interesting unintended results. Kind of like a cool photo taken by an old film camera with light leaks.


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Jeremy Garchow
Re: OT: Inexact Computer Chip Challenges Traditional Thinking
on May 26, 2012 at 3:34:52 am

Great articles, Walter. Fascinating, really.

It's hard to argue with this: "The inexact hardware is also a key component of ISAID's I-slate educational tablet. The low-cost I-slate is designed for Indian classrooms with no electricity and too few teachers. Officials in India's Mahabubnagar District announced plans in March to adopt 50,000 I-slates into middle and high school classrooms over the next three years. The hardware and graphic content for the I-slate are being developed in tandem. Pruned chips are expected to cut power requirements in half and allow the I-slate to run on solar power from small panels similar to those used on handheld calculators. Palem said the first I-slates and prototype hearing aids to contain pruned chips are expected by 2013."

There practical reasons, and good ones, for this type of technology. Is it "good enough", or is it overall better? Does power hungry accuracy = the best overall quality? Quality of life? Of work?

Good enough is the very idea of mass production. It's a calculation, a measurable amount of fail. Ford didn't set out to make the best car, he set out to make the most cars, for the most people at the highest quality the process would allow that was repeatable.

The industrial revolution was not about highest quality, it was about measurable quality, (and loss).

Look at the CAC chips on cameras. The chip can accommodate lens inaccuracies as the lens is telling the chip it's inaccurate. Is that the highest overall quality and accuracy? Certainly not. Does it solve a big problem fairly well? Surely.

Film wasn't created for quality and at first, it was highly inaccurate as well. In the process of making it better, look what happened.

Of course, intel can build a bigger sizzle core, but does that make it better for everyone? Or higher quality?


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Herb Sevush
Re: OT: Inexact Computer Chip Challenges Traditional Thinking
on May 26, 2012 at 6:52:10 pm

[Walter Soyka] "Much like CPU/GPU, are there cases (perhaps like compression) where inexact calculations are more tolerable than cases like keying where they are not?"

Not letting ignorance hold me back, I would think that if you know the CPU's are slightly imperfect, you could build accuracy for crucial calculations by averaging multiple attempts. This way you could get low cost and speed for majority of the work, and accuracy at a slower speed when needed.

Herb Sevush
Zebra Productions
---------------------------
nothin' attached to nothin'
"Deciding the spine is the process of editing" F. Bieberkopf


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Jeremy Garchow
Re: OT: Inexact Computer Chip Challenges Traditional Thinking
on May 29, 2012 at 3:29:08 pm

[Herb Sevush] "Not letting ignorance hold me back, I would think that if you know the CPU's are slightly imperfect, you could build accuracy for crucial calculations by averaging multiple attempts. This way you could get low cost and speed for majority of the work, and accuracy at a slower speed when needed."

But that would nullify the cost as you would have to build a cheap that was at once accurate and inexact, or cost more CPU crunch time leaving you with shorter battery life.

It's like building a V8 engine that shuts down to 4 cyls on the highway. Does that mean it's more complex or less complex?


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Herb Sevush
Re: OT: Inexact Computer Chip Challenges Traditional Thinking
on May 29, 2012 at 4:44:17 pm

[Jeremy Garchow] "It's like building a V8 engine that shuts down to 4 cyls on the highway. Does that mean it's more complex or less complex?"

Since I believe neither one of us knows enough to talk about this without high levels of "inexactness" I'm going to stay away from analogies (although for me that's like giving up beer.)

I don't really know how "inexact" computer chips behave. It is interesting to speculate on how "inexactness" might work positively - how it might make certain operations seem more "human like" - almost like adding noise to smooth out a gradient. Would it really be a bad thing if the hue of .01 percent of your pixels were 1 point out of wack? I do know that imprecision is often added into things like drum machine cadences to give them a more human swing.

I know I do not want any additional noise in my financial programs, nor in any telemetry work, but I'm not sure how it would effect my e-mail or my wireless transmissions - would it cause it to crash more often or would it occasionally become garbled?

I'm not sure where the price performance ratio would come down with these chips - but if there's a dollar to be made there I'm sure we'll find out.

Herb Sevush
Zebra Productions
---------------------------
nothin' attached to nothin'
"Deciding the spine is the process of editing" F. Bieberkopf


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