Sharp Microelectronics and Actimagine Collaborate to Boost SoC Video Capabilities; Video Decompression Rates Increase Fourfold with Same Power Use
Anticipating the growing market demand for increased media performance, Sharp Microelectronics has leveraged its IC expertise with Actimagine's software technology to deliver advanced performance solutions for video device designs. These improvements open new possibilities for media-rich electronic devices by achieving higher video performance without switching to a higher performance processor or increasing overall power consumption. These enhanced SoCs are ideal for portable media devices, including those with Vector Graphics content.
“Sharp's platforms are a good fit for Actimagine's software. When compared to architectures with similar process speeds, Sharp returns better performance. Additionally, Sharp's leadership in LCD and system solutions for video-centric applications gives us access to the fast-growing mobile electronics market.”
"Sharp Microelectronics and Actimagine have been collaborating worldwide for over two years to help our customers meet their time-to-market demands for cost-effective high quality video and gaming products," said Al Franceschino, Senior Business Development Manager for Sharp's BlueStreak line. "The synergy between Actimagine's software IP and Sharp's SoC line has enhanced our ability to deliver complete system-level solutions to our customers while reducing their total bill of materials."
Actimagine's software codec features a powerful new decompression method designed for general-purpose microcontrollers. A side-by-side comparison of Actimagine's codec with an MPEG4 codec allowed Sharp's family of SoCs to render four times more pixels at the same frame rate and quality. Sharp's ARM7-based MCUs can now support Vector Graphics at 30 frames per second (fps) and Video at 24 fps on a QVGA screen at 77 MHz; its ARM9-based MCUs can run Vector Graphics at 30 fps and video at 24 fps on a VGA screen at 266 MHz -- all with excellent audio quality.
"Power consumption is critical in the portable electronics market, with consumers demanding more functionality in an increasingly smaller form factor. Actimagine designed this codec to make optimal use of the available power, rather than requiring additional power," said Andre Pagnac, Chief Executive Officer, Actimagine. "Sharp's platforms are a good fit for Actimagine's software. When compared to architectures with similar process speeds, Sharp returns better performance. Additionally, Sharp's leadership in LCD and system solutions for video-centric applications gives us access to the fast-growing mobile electronics market."
Designers can take advantage of these new enhanced SoCs in two key ways. They can achieve target frame rates and resolution using lower-cost and less-complex SoCs. Consequently, they don't have to design in a new processor to add video functionality to a product. Products using ARM7 cores are now video capable. This better performance is attained without additional power, giving a longer battery life to portable devices.
Conversely, design engineers can lower hardware requirements to achieve the same resolution. By decreasing the operating frequency of the controller, customers can reduce both Electromagnetic Interference (EMI) and cost by using a less complex SoC. This scenario extends the lifespan of an SoC to meet next-generation performance demands.
For example, both ARM7 and ARM9 MCUs can run fully interactive Vector Graphics with sound at 24 fps. Additionally, mobile phones and video media players can run smooth games beginning with an ARM7 MCU with 77MHz.
The improved video capabilities will benefit consumer electronic products such as smart toys, portable game devices, and portable media players. Other ideal applications include end-of-aisle displays, digital signage, and kiosks.
"Video and display screens are now an integral part of electronic designs across several markets. As such, the connection between software and hardware is a key differentiating factor for a company whose customers face increasingly tight time-to-market and system cost challenges," said Noel Giamello, Senior Director, Systems Solutions Business Unit for Sharp Microelectronics. "We are pleased to be among the first MCU companies to work with Actimagine, whose technologies can only continue to enhance the performance of Sharp's powerful product offerings."
This technology is also advantageous for proprietary content owners. The media device must have this codec in order to decompress and play the video. The Actimagine video encoder generates the Actimagine video format, called "VX." This software encoder converts any video format such as MPEG4, AVI, and WMV into Actimagine VX format. The VX encoder is available as stand-alone PC software, as a server version for "on-the-fly" video conversion and mass conversion, and as a software library for integration in other video production. The Actimagine video format offers an additional layer of protection against piracy.
Sharp Microelectronics and Actimagine will continue to collaborate on R&D activities for future ICs to remain ahead of customers' design requirements and to investigate business opportunities to support customers.
Sharp Microelectronics and Actimagine will demonstrate the upgraded SoCs at Sharp's booth #12-244 in Hall 12.0 at Embedded World 2006 from February 14-16, at Messezentrum, Nurnberg, Germany.
Actimagine's technology integrates seamlessly into Sharp's SoC devices, without any hardware modifications. Sharp's SoCs continue to form the basis of its total system solutions, including high-quality LCD displays, Flash memory, optoelectronics devices, and other key design components, such as a touch screen.
Sharp Microelectronics also offers low-cost development tools to support these components, including a low-cost software development kit, developed by Logic Product Development. In addition, comprehensive software and documentation are available via Sharp's BlueStreak Software Library, http://able.sharpsma.com.
Sharp's enhanced SoCs are available now. Contact Sharp for pricing information.
About Sharp Microelectronics of the Americas
Sharp Microelectronics of the Americas, Camas, WA, is the U.S.-based microelectronics sales and marketing unit of Japan's Sharp Corporation. In 2001, Sharp also designated Sharp Microelectronics of the Americas as its global development center for Microcontroller and System-on-Chip products based on the popular ARM7 and ARM9 cores. Sharp is a worldwide developer of core digital technologies that are playing an integral role in shaping the next generation of electronic products for consumer and business needs. Sharp Microelectronics of the Americas offers breakthrough memory, LCD, optoelectronics, CCD, RF/IR, microcontroller and System-on-Chip components, along with packaging and integration skills that help design engineers throughout North and South America bring their ambitious ideas to market. Sharp Microelectronics of the Americas is dedicated to improving people's lives through the use of advanced technology and a commitment to innovation, quality, value and design. For more information, visit www.sharpsma.com.
Actimagine conceives, patents, and licenses display software technology for video and Vector Graphics. These core software technologies allow displaying video, multimedia interactive contents, and user interfaces. Actimagine display software can be embedded or used in any product with a color screen, from low- to high-speed processors, from low to high definition, and with or without an operating system. Actimagine constantly invests in developing power efficient software, which delivers more with a better usage of the CPU and electrical power. Actimagine technologies can be used on devices like mobile phones, MP3 players, toys, set top boxes, TV-sets, home appliances, digital signage, kiosks, etc. Actimagine is a privately owned company established in March 2003 in Paris, France. Actimagine has offices in Tokyo and Singapore. Actimagine USA shall be incorporated in California during the second quarter of 2006. Major U.S. and Japanese corporations have already adopted Actimagine technologies. For more information, visit www.actimagine.com
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