A year ago, we wrote an article about NVIDIA detailing its “Adventures in 3D.” We started with the early NV1, waded through the tumultuous NV2, and finished with the account of the GeForce 2. Since then, FiringSquad has added the story of the GeForce 3 and GeForce 4, but there is still an element missing from the narrative. Throughout these articles, we’ve only talked about at NVIDIA chips as consumer or computing products used for gaming or professional digital art creation. 3D graphics technology such as hardware T&L, anti-aliasing, and texture filtering were just toys for our imagination and hearts.
Toys for the Pentagon
While we have enjoyed our 3D graphics technology for entertainment over the last few years, NVIDIA and its partner Quantum3D have also been developing embedded graphics technology in the same way ELSA has been producing workstation products. Embedded graphics technology has many applications, including industrial and medical imaging, but perhaps one of the most interesting products are those being developed for the United States’ Department of Defense. We’re not talking about the use of NVIDIA GPUs to run team-building games such as Rogue Spear, but the use of actual NVIDIA/Quantum3D hardware in the field that helps our armed forces “place steel on target” effectively. This partnership is called FARSIGHT nV and the first design win is a Quadro2 Go in the cockpit display of the F-22 Raptor air dominance fighter.
My first reaction was one of excitement on so many different levels… can you possibly imagine what the overclocking potential would be on a mil-spec Quadro2 Go? As my mind wandered towards Top Gun, my enthusiasm turned to skepticism. Sure, NVIDIA GPUs are fast, but was that 3D power actually necessary in a fighter jet? The targeting crosshairs in Top Gun didn’t seem too complex, and with cockpit LCDs being maybe 5 or 8 inches, wouldn’t the resolution be so low that fillrate wouldn’t matter?
When I had the opportunity to talk with the team from Quantum3D my very first question was how hot a mil-spec NVIDIA GPUs ran. They told me it wasn’t a mil-spec chip. Now my excitement and skepticism turned to curiosity.