CES 2016: Imagination Creator Ci40 and PowerVR Ray Tracing eyes-on

LAS VEGAS: IMAGINATION TECHNOLOGIES is quickly becoming one of the most exciting companies in tech.

We caught up with the British outfit at CES in Las Vegas, where the firm is showcasing its next-gen PowerVR Series7 GPUs, Creator Ci40 IoT development board and a ray tracing system on the firm’s PowerVR GR6500 mobile GPU.

First up, we took a look at Imagination’s Creator Ci40 board. The MIPS-based kit, which Imagination has aptly dubbed ‘IoT in a box’, launched on Kickstarter in November and surpassed its £20,000 funding goal in December with 150 percent of total funding

The Ci40 is the second member of the firm’s Creator family of development boards, promising higher performance over previous versions such as the Creator Ci20 to make developing IoT projects easier than before.

The kit will ship to Kickstarter backers in April, and contains the Creator Ci40 board and all the hardware and software building blocks needed to quickly prototype a wide range of IoT systems from scratch.

There is no soldering needed as the sensors simply click into place, and the kit has no wires other than the USB cable for power and wired communications to the Ci40 microcomputer.

Imagination Ci40 development kit

It comes in a compact box (above) “with everything needed to build the next wireless IoT application”, including: the Ci40 board; two battery-powered MikroE 6LoWPAN Clicker expansion boards with a mikroBUS socket for adding sensors; three Click companion boards, including a temperature sensor, a motion sensor and a relay switch; and all the required software.

Imagination showed us the kit in action at CES, demonstrating how the Creator Ci40 is helping a blueberry farm to implement smarter water management by using multiple remote sensors to measure temperature, humidity and moisture (below). The system, which can use a mobile or WiFi internet connection, is scalable, which means it can be used across multiple farms, in turn reducing water waste and improving crop management. 

Imagination Creator Ci40 demo

This is a niche use case,  but Alex Voica, senior technology marketing specialist at Imagination, explained that the Creator Ci40 is already being tested for consumer applications.

“One guy has set up a voice-controlled speaker, so when he says: ‘Turn the volume down,’ it can do just that,” Voica said. “The motion sensor that ships with the kit means that you could set up a similar system that uses arm gestures for volume control.”

We also had a look at Imagination’s “ground-breaking” ray tracing technology in action, which it is demoing for the first time this week.

Imagination PowerVR ray tracing demo

The firm showed us real-time ray tracing, a form of 3D rendering where the rays of light in an image are followed along their path as they interact with and reflect from materials to create realistic images. This was done on a PowerVR GR6500 mobile GPU, comparing it with the same technology that requires a huge desktop-class Nvidia GPU to obtain the same, impressive results.

Voica told us that the technology is likely to show up first in gaming consoles, along with desktop machines, laptops, tablets and smartphones, and we suspect that it could end up in future Apple devices, given that the firm’s PowerVR GPU drives the processors used in them. Exact availability details remain unknown. µ

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