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IBM confirms processor technology in 'Watson' will power Wii U

Written by Andre Yoskowitz (Google+) @ 11 Jun 2011 23:03 User comments (9)

IBM confirms processor technology in 'Watson' will power Wii U IBM has confirmed this week that it will be providing the microprocessors for the upcoming Nintendo Wii U console, and that the technology will be the same used in the "Watson" supercomputer.
Earlier this year, "Watson" defeated the top earners of all-time on Jeopardy (Ken Jennings and Bruce Rutter), handily.

Watson is able to calculate thousands of algorithms at the same time, while searching its massive database for the right answer. The behemoth computer runs on ninety 32-core IBM Power 750 Express servers and has 16TB of memory and was over 20 feet high.

Notes IBM:

The all-new, Power-based microprocessor will pack some of IBM's most advanced technology into an energy-saving silicon package that will power Nintendo's brand new entertainment experience for consumers worldwide. IBM's unique embedded DRAM, for example, is capable of feeding the multi-core processor large chunks of data to make for a smooth entertainment experience.

IBM plans to produce millions of chips for Nintendo featuring IBM Silicon on Insulator (SOI) technology at 45 nanometers (45 billionths of a meter). The custom-designed chips will be made at IBM's state-of-the-art 300mm semiconductor development and manufacturing facility in East Fishkill, N.Y.


Nintendo and IBM have a relationship that started over a decade ago with the GameCube console and has continued since.

The Wii U is set for a 2012 launch.

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9 user comments

112.6.2011 2:57

And yet the Wii-U is still not even that far ahead of 360 or PS3, with nothing more than a gimicky controller that does nice tricks due to software programming. I think they should have stepped it up a notch because by next year or the year after that Sony and or MS will release tech that makes Wii-U look like a baby of consoles.

212.6.2011 3:31

So it will be a bit less than 1/720th the power of Watson, depending on other changes (assuming the 4-core rumor and that it would likely be a 'cut down' version of the original CPU). It's odd that the quote from IBM doesn't say it's the same, but just "Power-based"...which could be either POWER6 or POWER7. With Nintendo more worried about the cost of a console, I wouldn't be surprised if was actually based on a POWER6 core (unless they're completely gutting a POWER7 CPU).

IBM must love having a lock on the console CPUs for the past several years and the foreseeable future. I heard a while back that Intel had unsuccessfully been courting Microsoft to switch to them for the next Xbox.

312.6.2011 14:34

Quote:
IBM has confirmed this week that it will be providing the microprocessors for the upcoming Nintendo Wii U console, and that the technology will be the same used in the "Watson" supercomputer.
We already knew that it will be using PPC architecture...the same as the 360, the same as a PS3, the same as an old Mac. Nothing revolutionary here...and the processor in the "Wii on U" will be less than 10% of the speed of just one of the 90 processors in Watson. It seems a very odd comparison to make; it is a bit like saying that a Ford Model T uses an internal combustion engine, just like a Bugatti Veyron...except that the Veyron is only 50x more powerful than a Model T.


412.6.2011 16:02

Originally posted by KillerBug:
Quote:
IBM has confirmed this week that it will be providing the microprocessors for the upcoming Nintendo Wii U console, and that the technology will be the same used in the "Watson" supercomputer.
We already knew that it will be using PPC architecture...the same as the 360, the same as a PS3, the same as an old Mac. Nothing revolutionary here...and the processor in the "Wii on U" will be less than 10% of the speed of just one of the 90 processors in Watson. It seems a very odd comparison to make; it is a bit like saying that a Ford Model T uses an internal combustion engine, just like a Bugatti Veyron...except that the Veyron is only 50x more powerful than a Model T.
Make that 2880 processors across 90 servers :P. At that rate, I'd agree with the consensus so far... the Wii U isn't all that much better than the 360/PS3. Though I guess Nintendo is riding on the controller being the differentiating factor again.

512.6.2011 19:14

Originally posted by rvinkebob:
Make that 2880 processors across 90 servers :P. At that rate, I'd agree with the consensus so far... the Wii U isn't all that much better than the 360/PS3. Though I guess Nintendo is riding on the controller being the differentiating factor again.

More technically, 11520 threads across 2880 cores (4 threads per core) across 360 CPUs (8 cores per CPU) across 90 'servers' (4 CPUs per 'server').

Also, regarding other comments, POWER and PowerPC are somewhat different things...PowerPC just used part of the POWER architecture originally, but newer POWER versions also have some of the architecture that was specifically designed for the PowerPC architecture. There are other differences, though...one being that PowerPC is usually limited to around 2.5GHz or so (3.2 for the custom ones made for 360 and the CellBE's PPU) for clock speeds while POWER CPUs go from 3GHz up to 5GHz (standard, not by overclocking). The good thing, though, is that a POWER CPU should be able to run most PowerPC code w/ little or no modifications (i.e. very good for retaining backwards compatibility, unlike trying to totally emulate another CPU, which usually requires the host CPU to have up to 10x the horsepower of the emulated CPU).
This message has been edited since its posting. Latest edit was made on 12 Jun 2011 @ 19:32

613.6.2011 13:15

Originally posted by rvinkebob:
I guess Nintendo is riding on the controller being the differentiating factor again.
There are a lot of reasons why I never paid for a Wii, but the main reason was the controller. It appears this will be the case again.

However, we will have to see how expensive the controllers are by themselves. If they are cheap and they have good hardware, the hacker in me might buy one without a WiiU. They look terrible for gaming, but if they are only $50 or something, I could see using one as a high-end remote, a home control panel, or maybe even a remote desktop client.


714.6.2011 16:33

Great... now my Wii is going to be a smart ass.


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814.6.2011 16:46

The final Jeopardy question for Watson.

Question: "on what day did IBM Create a Super computer to challenge the contestants of jeopardy a popular quiz show?"

Watson: "Err-or"

Alex Trebek: I'm sorry Watson that answer is incorrect.

Watson: Term-M-I-N-A-T-E!!!

This message has been edited since its posting. Latest edit was made on 14 Jun 2011 @ 16:47

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914.6.2011 17:24

Originally posted by KillerBug:
but if they are only $50 or something, I could see using one as a high-end remote, a home control panel, or maybe even a remote desktop client.
Awesome idea! I'd love to integrate one of those into my HTPC setup. I'd be able to toss cover art right on the 'remote' and one could browse the library while watching whatever... or even preview on the remote... endless possibilities!

And even better, it's Nintendo bringing this out instead of Sony, so maybe they won't sue anyone trying to liberate the controller into oblivion.


jam out.

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