Reconfigurable computing for video

Rapport today announced a new reconfigurable processing chip and an alliance with IBM. Good luck to them. Many have tried, many have failed with reconfigurable chips.

And if their performance is so great, why do they compare themselves to an ARM 7 processor, an incredibly anemic chip?

Rapport, which raised $7 million last year and is based in Redwood City, Calif., licensed a computing design from researchers at Carnegie Mellon.

That approach has permitted Rapport to create a chip with 256 computing elements that can be configured on the fly to adapt to different software problems. A follow-on version of the chip will have more than 1,000 computing elements and will contain a version of I.B.M.’s Power PC microprocessor.

At a computing conference scheduled to begin in San Jose, Calif., on Tuesday, Rapport will demonstrate the chip processing a stream of video images. While a standard industry microprocessor chip, the ARM 7, can process 3.3 images a second while consuming half a watt of power, the new Rapport chip will convert 30 frames a second while consuming only 100 milliwatts, about one-fifth the power.

Singer said the current chip can process at least 25 billion operations per second, about five to 10 times faster than current low-power chips. He said that would enable new kinds of gadgets, from a “suitcase supercomputer” to a handheld computer that can play high-definition videos.

The company has raised $10 million to date and is raising another $20 million. It has 20 employees. IBM is working with the start-up on the second chip and has invited Rapport to join the Power.org alliance of companies that support IBM’s PowerPC technology.