Microsoft's Talisman to bring fast graphics to PCs

Microsoft has unveiled plans for technology that will allow PC users to work with sophisticated graphics applications but with performance similar to that on high-end workstations.

Microsoft has unveiled plans for technology that will allow PC users to work with sophisticated graphics applications but with performance similar to that on high-end workstations. The graphics chip technology, code-named "Talisman", will likely appear in products around the end of 1997, Microsoft executives said at the SIGGRAPH '96 (Special Interest Group on Graphics) trade show in New Orleans earlier this week. They say it is too early to say how much more new systems will cost as a result of the new technology.

Talisman addresses PC bandwidth and memory limitations by minimising computational requirements of 3D animation. It does this by eliminating the conventional frame buffer and allowing applications to more freely render and animate objects. It also captures more than 95% of the memory bandwidth required by rendering inside the graphics chips and uses advanced texture compression techniques.

Microsoft is working with Cirrus Logic, Fujitsu, Philips, Samsung and Silicon Engineering on creating a reference design for microprocessors based on the Talisman technology, and with Intel on host-based Talisman implementations. An Intel spokesman says Talisman will complement Intel's own MMX technology designed to bring improved multimedia capabilities to PCs by assigning more functionality to the chip.

"Intel likes 3D and Talisman will help bring it to PCs, but it needs to be at volume price-points," says Mike Miller, director of Intel's worldwide press relations. A reported price of US$300 "is not a volume price-point for a graphics subsystem, so using the power of the host processor is likely the way Talisman will see volume market."

Products designed for DirectX, Microsoft's multimedia programming interface, will also be Talisman-ready with advanced Talisman features included in DirectX starting with release 4 in the first quarter of 1997, according to Microsoft's white paper. The paper was one of 10 presented by Microsoft's research division at SIGGRAPH. The others included one on 4D technology entitled "The Lumigraph", and one on "The Virtual Cinematographer", technology which automatically acts as the director and camera operator in a virtual world.

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