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NVIDIA Wants to Power Your Camera, Too

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Thanks to NVIDIA's (NASDAQ: NVDA  ) press release Tuesday, in which it announced its first fully integrated 4G LTE mobile processor, the investing world is abuzz with renewed excitement for the company's prospects in the fast-growing smartphone market -- and rightly so.

As I noted at the time of the announcement, Stuart Robinson at Strategy Analytics wasted no time voicing his approval, saying, "On paper at least, the Tegra 4i out-performs Qualcomm's (NASDAQ: QCOM  ) latest industry-leading chips in most apps processor measurements but, most importantly for NVIDIA, it also benefits from an integrated 'soft-modem' that can be reprogrammed over-the-air to support new frequencies and new air interfaces; something that most other modem vendors can currently only dream of."

Even still, while Qualcomm management can't be particularly pleased with the news, it's a safe bet that NVIDIA will be fighting an uphill battle with its well-established competitor. 

Capturing the world of photography
However, buried in the Tegra 4i news was another juicy nugget from NVIDIA. Just minutes before its Tegra 4i press release, the graphics specialist announced what it calls the "world's first mobile computational photography architecture."

Dubbed "Chimera," the architecture was technically unveiled more than a month ago at CES along with the initial announcement of NVIDIA's Tegra 4 processor. At the time, the company showcased Chimera's ability to maintain always-on HDR photos and videos to allow users to "instantly capture high-quality HDR images similar to how the human eye sees the world." For instance, our eyes are able to focus on both well-lit and shaded areas at the same time, which is a notoriously difficult task for traditional camera lenses. Apparently, Chimera goes a long way toward bridging this gap.

With this in mind, Tuesday's announcement gave algorithmic imagery nerds like myself even more to digest. Now, Chimera also incorporates new HDR panoramic functionality, allowing users to take wide-angle shots by capturing "a scene while the camera moves -- from side to side, up and down or diagonally -- effectively "painting" a panorama in real time from many angles and in any order the user wants."

In addition, Chimera now boasts "persistent tap-to-track technology," letting users touch the image of any object to set it as a static focal point for the resulting image. Translation? Whether you have to reposition the camera or little Jimmy just won't stop wiggling, NVIDIA's Chimera will make sure the picture stays in focus with its exposure intact.

Naturally, Chimera is integrated into both the Tegra 4 and Tegra 4i processors, so device makers can incorporate the technology in their Tegra-powered devices as they see fit. Going even further, according to the announcement both Sony and Micron's Aptina unit have already added support for Chimera in their sensors, "with others to be announced."

A sticky solution
As an investor, I love that NVIDIA is increasingly building on its gaming roots to become a one-stop shop for all things graphics and image processing.

Don't get me wrong. The Tegra 4i is huge news for NVIDIA and could be just what the doctor ordered to snap its shares out of their recent streak of prolonged underperformance. In the end, the Chimera architecture simply hasn't gotten the attention it deserves and makes NVIDIA's comprehensive solution that much harder to refuse.

More expert advice from The Motley Fool
NVIDIA was ahead of the curve by launching its mobile Tegra processor, but investing gains haven't followed as expected, with the company struggling to gain momentum in the smartphone market. If you'd like to learn more, The Motley Fool's brand-new premium report examines NVIDIA's stumbling blocks but also homes in on opportunities that many investors are overlooking. We'll help you sort fact from fiction to determine whether NVIDIA is a buy at today's prices. Simply click here now to unlock your copy of this comprehensive report.

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