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Amazon Launches New EC2 GPU Instances For High-Performance 3D Graphics In The Cloud


Amazon today launched a new type of instance for its EC2 cloud computing platform that is specifically designed for applications that require 3D graphics capabilities. When you think about cloud computing, high-performance 3D graphics are probably not the first thing that comes to mind, but given how much compute power that 3D visualizations and streaming graphics-intensive applications require, this new instance type is a logical next step for AWS.

Using these new instances, Amazon argues, its users can now “build high-performance DirectX, OpenGL, CUDA, and OpenCL applications and services without making expensive up-front capital investments.”

Amazon is making two of these new GPU instance types available for now. The g2.2xlarge version comes with 15 GiB memory, 60 GB of local storage, 26 EC2 Compute Units (that’s an Intel Sandy Bridge processor running at 2.6 GHz) and a single NVIDIA Kepler GK104 graphics card (with 1536 CUDA cores). The larger cg1.4xlarge version comes with 22 GiB of memory, 1690 GB of local storage, 33.5 EC2 Compute Units and two NVIDIA Tesla “Fermi” M2050 GPUs. On-demand prices start at $0.65 per hour for the smaller instance and $2.10 for the larger one.

A single GPU, Amazon argues, can support up to eight real-time 720p video streams at 30fps (or four 1080p streams).

These new instances are now available in Amazon’s U.S. East, West (California and Oregon) and EU (Ireland) data centers, and Amazon is making machine images with support for these instance types available, too.

“Since we launched Cluster GPU instances two years ago, many customers have asked for expanded functionality to extend the power of our GPU instances beyond HPC applications to graphics-intensive workloads, such as video-creation services, 3D visualizations and game streaming,” said Matt Garman, Vice President, Amazon EC2, AWS in a statement today. “By enabling the use of DirectX and OpenGL, G2 instances allow developers to cost-effectively build scalable, fast 3D applications on Amazon EC2 and deliver high-performance 3D graphics using the cloud.”

Amazon also supports OTOY’s ORBX.js on these GPU instances. This is a downloadable HD codec written in JavaScript and WebGL that allows you to stream 3D-intensive applications right from the cloud without the need for any plug-ins, codecs or other client-side software except for the browser. This project is backed by Mozilla, Autodesk and OTOY. This means, Mozilla notes in an announcement today, that “Amazon Web Services (AWS) customers will be able to use the power of graphics processing in the Cloud and OTOY’s ORBX.js streaming technology to deliver high performance games and desktop applications to the Web – using only HTML5 and JavaScript.”

Autodesk, for example, will use this technology to make applications like 3DS Max, Autodesk Maya and Autodesk Inventor available through any modern web browser. OTOY also today demonstrated apps like Photoshop CS6 and games from Valve running in the browser using ORBX.js. OTOY has already published a number of ORBX.js-enabled machine images for EC2, including one for Autodesk’s applications.

Amazon also announced that Playcast Media will use its new g2 instances to stream video games soon and that Agawi True Cloud will use it to stream games and apps to mobile devices.

Amazon’s Smartphones Detailed: ‘Project Smith’ 3D Flagship Model And A Value Handset With FireOS

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Amazon is in the process of developing two smartphones, one inexpensive model and one with a 3D eye-tracking interface, TechCrunch has learned. The details are somewhat sparse, but are corroborated by sources and reports from earlier this year.

Amazon is planning two devices, the first of which is the previously rumored ‘expensive’ version with a 3D user interface, eye tracking and more. Both devices were under the ‘Project B’ moniker before the news was leaked on WSJ earlier this year. The expensive model’s code-name has since been changed to ‘Duke’ and now ‘Smith’ – and a release is not planned this year.

Details of the devices appeared on a HN posting via a throwaway account earlier today and TechCrunch verified some aspects of the posting with our sources and came away with some additional information.

They match up with details from the WSJ report:

But the people familiar with the plans said the smartphone and set-top box are just two elements of a broader foray into hardware that also includes the audiostreaming device and the high-end smartphone with the 3-D screen.

Inside Amazon’s Lab126 facility in Cupertino, Calif., where each of the devices have been under development, the efforts are known as Project A, B, C and D, or collectively the Alphabet Projects, said the people familiar with the plans.

The ‘Smith’ project includes a device that sounds like a bit of a hardware beast. The screen itself is not 3D but the device features four cameras, one at each corner of the device that will be used to track eye and head motions in order to move the interface around to ‘give the impression’ of 3D. Instead of using the phone’s internal sensors, like Apple does with iOS 7, it would base the movements off of the user’s point of view. Theoretically, this will provide a more accurate 3D representation of the screen’s contents.

There has been some software testing on a feature that will recognize the user’s face and ignore other faces around it, so as not to project 3D perspectives that are proper for your neighbors, but not for you.

Another feature said to be planned for the device, but not yet locked for release, is an image recognition feature that lets users take a shot of any real-world object and match it to an Amazon product for purchase. The possibility of this object recognition model offsetting some of the cost of the device through purchases by users is mentioned in the posting.

Four cameras (5 including a rear camera for shooting images) would be a large additional expense, so it’s tough to imagine that making it to market, and it’s not needed for motion tracking. But it could be necessary for the object capture mode, and Amazon could be looking for a differentiating feature that sets its devices apart from the crowd.

It’s not clear what OS this device runs on but it’s hard to believe it’s anything but a heavily modified version of Android that supports the 3D views. What we’re hearing is that if you move your head you can see things like media player buttons that move around and can even ‘peek’ off the edges of the screen to see things not visible from the front. Much of this is said to be experimental and the effects may not be as pronounced in the final version.

A second project which fell under the ‘Project B’ handle is a value device. Said to be a ‘cheap’ phone with basic software that is similar to that found on the Kindle Fire tablets – now called FireOS. The posting says that Amazon is looking to release the inexpensive device this year, something that would dovetail with a report by ‘Jessica Lessin’ writer Amir Efrati from last month. Note that Amazon denied to Efrati that it would release a device at all this year and that if it did the device wouldn’t be free. Our sources indicate that this may be because the project’s target date has been shifting around and it may get pushed into next year. There is no word on whether Amazon would try to offer the ‘cheap’ device low-cost via ads.

The devices are being shipped around internally inside a locked metal case with just the screen visible, and are not allowed outside of the building, even for engineers working from home. The floors of Amazon’s Lab126 facility where the devices are under development are locked down. This has become standard operating procedure for secretive companies like Amazon and Apple when it comes to hardware development. The development teams for the devices are split between Sunnyvale and Seattle.

There is also some scuttlebutt around staffing in the posting, some of which we hear is accurate. Amazon has indeed pulled engineers from other projects onto the phone teams, leaving other hardware projects with reduced staff.

The posting also claims that Amazon wanted to have launched the device already, but had issues with software and hardware, as well as employee retention. We’ve been unable to corroborate this aspect of the leak.

Since these devices are still classified as in development, it is quite possible that the feature-sets may change – even dramatically – before they are released to the public. If there has been a struggle developing the devices, then Amazon could consider modifying its requirements for bringing them to market. We have reached out for comment on this story and will update the piece if we hear back.

Image Credit: Puamelia / Flickr CC

Amazon’s Q2 Disappoints, Sales Up 22 Percent To $15.7B, Net Loss Of $7M


Amazon just reported second-quarter earnings, with sales increasing 22 percent to $15.7 billion in the second quarter, compared with $12.83 billion in second quarter 2012. Net loss was $7 million in the second quarter, or $0.02 per diluted share, compared with net income of $7 million, or $0.01 per diluted share, in second quarter 2012. Analysts expected $15.74 billion in revenue, and $0.05 on earnings per share.

Operating income decreased 26 percent to $79 million in the second quarter, compared with $107 million in second quarter 2012.

“We’re so grateful to our customers for their response to Kindle devices and our digital ecosystem. This past quarter, our top 10 selling items worldwide were all digital products – Kindles, Kindle Fire HDs, accessories and digital content,” said Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos, in a statement.

“The Kindle service keeps getting better. The Kindle Store now offers millions of titles including more than 350,000 exclusives that you won’t find anywhere else. Prime Instant Video has surpassed 40,000 titles, including many premium exclusives like Downton Abbey and Under the Dome. And we’ve added more than a thousand books, games, educational apps, movies and TV shows to Kindle FreeTime Unlimited, bringing together in one place all the types of content kids and parents love.”

Bezos didn’t address why Amazon missed on expectations for the quarter, but perhaps this will be revealed in the call. According to analyst estimates, the ecommerce giant was expected to post net income of $28.3 million.

It’s been an eventful quarter for Amazon. Towards the end of the first quarter, Amazon purchased social reading service Goodreads, which now has 20 million members. Amazon also expanded its international footprint, including expansion to India. Additionally the company bought screen technology company Liquavista from Samsung.

Other news included the expansion of its grocery delivery service to L.A. and San Francisco, a new Facebook-focused gifting product, an online store for 3D printers, and of course there were those smartphone rumors.


Amazon’s ‘Best Ever Holiday Season’ Saw 426 Items Sold Per Second


As if it could have ended any other way, Amazon managed to once again set sales records this holiday season. Amazon announced on Thursday that more than 1 million Amazon users became Prime members during the third week of December, and on the biggest shipping day of the year, more Prime items were shipped than any single day in the past. Amazon customers also ordered more than 36.8 million items on Cyber Monday alone – a jaw-dropping 426 items per second – including more Kindles than ever before. How many Kindles, exactly? We still have no idea since Amazon refuses to share any actual numbers. But speaking of tablets, Amazon says that more than half of its customers shopped using a mobile device this holiday season.

Read the full story at Boy Genius Report.