Matrox G550 Chipset
nVidia's GeForce 3 can be said to have brought two
things to the table - amazing performance and a steep price. While the ends may
justify spending over $400USD for a GeForce 3 it still remains an incredibly expensive graphics solution. With the introduction of Matrox's G550 graphics chip the
opposite seems to be true. Matrox, who have long been known for releasing
solidly reliable graphics cards expect the G550 to retail for a mear
Matrox are continuing their support of the Dual Head technology (multiple
displays for one computer) and adding a few new interesting features as well.
The G550 chip is based on a 0.18 micron process and features a long list of
attributes, not the least of which is a 256-bit Dual Bus, DDR SDRAM support, 4x
AGP, Dual integrated CRTC's / RAMDAC's / TMDS, TV encoder, and support for
32-bit displays of up to 2048x2048 resolution.
The real kicker as far as Matrox is concerned is the
integration of their new Headcasting engine. Before we go into too much detail,
lets explain what exactly this is. In Matrox's own words, "the Head Casting
engine was designed specifically to accelerate the 3D rendering of
high-resolution human facial animations over the internet." The G550 Headcasting
Engine is a hardware implementation of a Vertex Shader for accelerated matrix
palette skinning (MPS). It does this by improving on the 96 constant registers
specified for by Direct X 8.0 to a total of 256. The 256 constant registers
embedded in the G550 chip act in the same way as a cache, enabling the VOC (visual online
communication) animation data to be rendered more dynamically in real-time than would otherwise
Strategic Alliance - Moving Towards
The inclusion of this application specific hardware engine marks a strategic
alliance between Matrox and software IP providers Digimask and Lipsinc in an
attempt to leverage part of the $12 billion expected to be spent on Customer
Relationship Management Software (CRM) by 2003.
CRM software is one of the many tools used by large online retailers to help
keep shoppers happy, and more importantly, shopping on their web sites.
Abandoned shopping carts are seen as a significant problem in the online retail
world where many stores are mercilessly struggling to remain profitable for
investors. Where CRM software comes into play is when a customer has a question
and wants a real-time answer.
Some current examples of real-time CRM would be Instant Messaging or VoIP
(Voice over IP) sales reps. In some cases a small photo of the sales rep is
displayed. In other cases the Instant Messaging responses may be completely
computer generated. In any case these solutions are typically text-based, and in
some cases audio enabled.
By incorporating the Headcasting engine in the G550 chip, Matrox hope to tap
into the next generation of internet shopping that more closely replicates
walking into a store and speaking with a sales rep. In this vision, a customer
question would prompt a small window with a 3D-animated face that talks back to
you in real-time, Max Headroom style, with lip movements synchronized to what the
sales rep is saying. Call it kinder, friendlier, Walmart-esq internet