Microsoft shared some interesting details about their 28nm SoC design targeting augmented reality headset. Well, that is not just a processor, it’s custom vision processor which Microsoft calls HoloLens Processing Unit (HPU) as it is specifically targeting the augmented (possibly also virtual) reality needs.
It is very interesting to see the computing power that was implemented on the chip to accommodate the imaging algorithms that used. The interfaces used on this chip are referenced as PCIe, DDR and MIPI. As the HPU uses several camera interfaces, depth and motion sensor for image identification and processing, recognizing gestures it’s clear that MIPI Camera and Display interfaces are probably used extensively. As per the die plot provided, the MIPI interfaces take a very small area of the processor compared to the computing blocks that are dominant utilizing 24 cores.
As I was able to collect from public information, to meet the size constraints of the head mount system the HPU device is packaged together with 1GB LPDDR3 and Intel Atom x86 processor.
There are several systems targeting the augmented and virtual reality markets
The augmented reality market has many uses in industrial, consumer, medical and if it takes off, this kind of vision processing architecture means transitioning from general purpose Application Processors to more custom made high performance vision processing units targeting a range of applications and not just mobile phones. There is quite a distance to go, both on the market growth side and on cost optimization, making the device more affordable and reaching wider adoption. MIPI Alliance specifications are adopted in high volume mobile markets are now finding homes in other applications, leverage economies of scale (cost, power, simplicity, scalability, ‘mobile-friendly’ attributes) and a huge eco-system of devices proven in production. With the growth expected in sensors, cameras and displays interfaces for high computing visual processors I have no doubt that interfaces such as CSI, DSI and I3C will continue to be the most dominant interfaces in mobile and beyond.
Here’s a cool demo of what this HoloLens product can do (a lot!):
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