The widely anticipated 2015 Consumer Electronics Show kicks off in Las Vegas on Tuesday, Jan. 6. But graphics chip specialist NVIDIA (NASDAQ:NVDA) is getting the party started early -- again.
NVIDIA this week announced it will hold a press event on Sunday evening, during which it says company co-founder and CEO Jen-Hsun Huang will "show you what we've been up to."
The bar is set high
Whatever NVIDIA has been up to, it should be interesting.
At its similarly timed press event last year, for example, NVIDIA ripped the lid off its Tegra K1 mobile superchip, which boasts 192 Kepler graphics cores and efficiently brings console-class capabilities to mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets. In fact, when the recently launched 64-bit version of the K1 earned a spot in Google's Nexus 9 tablet this past October, Geekbench developer and Primate Labs founder John Poole was shocked enough by its outperformance to call the K1's single-core Geekbench result "insane."
The year before, NVIDIA unveiled its SHIELD handheld gaming device, which was not expected to be a commercial blockbuster early on. The SHIELD product family has since been expanded to include a stand-alone controller and a SHIELD gaming tablet -- all with the aim of introducing consumers to NVIDIA's ultimate vision for console-free, cloud-based gaming.
Here's what to expect this year
NVIDIA was understandably stingy with details for its impending event. But its press release offered this little nugget: "At CES, NVIDIA will unveil new mobile and automotive technologies."
That might seem vague, but it narrows the possibilities based on past product road maps and recent market rumors.
First, does anyone remember NVIDIA's 2014 GPU Technology Conference last March? Specifically, I'm talking about this little bit the company revealed about the K1's successor, a Maxwell GPU-based system on a chip code-named "Erista."
In short, I'm betting NVIDIA is about to give us our first real peek at Erista. Assuming Huang's words from the above video ring true, Erista should prove ridiculously fast, incredibly energy-efficient, and all in all a marked improvement over its predecessor on a performance-per-watt basis. In short, Erista will lend itself particularly well to today's power-sipping, performance-hungry mobile devices.
But what about the automotive hint? NVIDIA's processors are already being used in over 6.2 million cars (and counting) across nearly two dozen brands, including Audi, Volkswagen, BMW, and Tesla. But much of that presence is in the form of infotainment system design wins.
That's certainly nothing to scoff at. But, as I pointed out in August, NVIDIA is much more excited about its prospects for acting as the digital brains, so to speak, for self-driving vehicles. Specifically, NVIDIA envisions up to four of its beefy mobile processors integrated into each self-driving vehicle in the future, where they'll handle computationally intensive tasks such as object detection, processing, and avoidance.
At last year's CES, Huang introduced Tegra K1 for Advanced Driver Assistance Systems, or ADAS, noting the company intentionally made K1 a programmable platform that can be easily integrated into various vehicles in a relatively small package. He also suggested this will allow for rapid improvement in the algorithms vehicles use to handle self-driving tasks.
This year, then, I wouldn't be the least bit surprised if NVIDIA introduces a revised version of Tegra for ADAS, with Erista -- and its superior processing power -- at its core.
Of course, I'll also be ecstatic if NVIDIA has any completely novel tricks up its sleeve at this year's show. In any case, as an NVIDIA investor, you can be sure I'll be listening closely to what NVIDIA says at its press event on Sunday.