Your future smartphone and tablet will have 48 cores: Intel

But will more power-efficient intelligent neurosynaptic chips replace them?
November 2, 2012 by Amara D. Angelica

Single-chip cloud computer (credit: Intel)

Intel researchers are working on a 48-core processor for smartphones and tablets — making them many times more powerful than today’s desktop computers within the next five to ten years, reports Computerworld.

Intel is distributing 100 of the experimental 48-core chips so researchers can work on the advanced parallel-computing programming models and software need to support these cores.

Intel says it’s using a prototype of a ”single-chip cloud computer” to develop the chip.

Adding cores to processors is a power-efficient way of boosting chip performance, instead of increasing CPU clock speed, which led to excessive heat dissipation and power consumption.

Intel CTO Justin Rattner said functions such as speech recognition and augmented reality will push the need for this kind of computational power.

“If we’re going to have this technology in five to 10 years, [the smartphone] won’t have just one camera,” said Enric Herrero, a research scientist at Intel Labs in Barcelona. “It would have two to three cameras that are always on. It could build a three-dimensional map of what it’s looking at and do object recognition.”

Smarter, faster cloud search

But can these functions be achieved with dedicated chips, better software, and tight cloud integration — instead of the humungous 25 to 125 Watts (two light bulbs!) needed, according to Intel — compared to less than ~5 Watts max with current cell phones?

Case in point: I’m impressed with the voice search feature in the just-released iOS/Android Google Search app upgrade, which blows away Siri in speed (I clocked it repeatedly at less than a second for Google searches on an iPhone 5), and with excellent voice recognition and voice quality (replacing Siri’s irritating robot voice).

Granted, it can’t access contacts and launch apps, like Siri, but for fast, intelligent searching, move over Siri: it will be Google voice search + Watson.

Examples of questions the Google Search app can answer (via Official Google blog):

  • “What does Yankee Stadium look like?” Google will show you hundreds of pictures instantly.
  • “Play me a trailer of the upcoming James Bond movie.” The trailer starts playing immediately right within Google Search.
  • “When does daylight savings time end?” The answer will appear above the search results, so you can set your clock without having to click on a link.
  •  “Who’s in the cast of The Office?” See a complete cast list and find out who made you crack up last night.

Also, if we’re talking 10 years, we’re probably in post-silicon land, perhaps with intelligent low-power neurosynaptic chips based on carbon nanotubes or instant graphene devices on demand, powered by solar cells painted onto our devices or clothing.

Will power-gulping multiple cores still be relevant?