Microsoft reveals the processor that makes HoloLens magic happen

Microsoft’s HoloLens is a potentially revolutionary piece of kit. We’ve tried it ourselves a number of times, and came away very impressed with the device’s capabilities and potential. And since its original unveiling, we’ve come to learn most of what makes the magic happen under the hood. But today, we got that final piece of the puzzle as Microsoft shared details of its secretive, custom-built “holographic processing unit (HPU)”.

Back in February of this year, Microsoft made available to developers the first batch of HoloLens head-mounted displays (HMDs), while also giving us our first insight into what powers the devices. We learned about the numerous sensors, cameras and inputs that made the HoloLens work, as well as the Intel chip and custom HPU that did the heavy lifting. But now that HPU was revealed in all of its glory, as being a 28nm co-processor, featuring 24 cores and 1 GB of low-power DDR3 RAM.

Image via The Register

According to The Register, which attended the Hot Chips conference where Microsoft shared these details, those 24 cores are custom-designed Tensilica digital signal processors (DSPs), optimized to process continuous signals from the HoloLens sensors. It’s these DSPs that make all the magic happen, performing a reported one trillion calculations per second. All of that data is then packaged and shipped over to the Intel Cherry Trail CPU for final processing.

Image via The Register

The impressive part here is that the entire HPU draws less than 10W of power, while the specially-designed hardware offers up to 200x improvements in processing over a general-purpose CPU. It’s this that allows the HoloLens to function as the world’s first “fully untethered” holographic unit, but it’s also what makes the device a very expensive proposition, with a current price tag of $3000.

The big question of whether Microsoft can scale up production or cut down on costs remains to be answered in the years ahead, but for now, we finally got to know the full specs behind the HoloLens.

Source: The Register

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