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Gaming in the office

The last thing you would want your boss to catch you doing is playing on a video game console while at work, or while on the clock working from home. That is, unless of course you work in the gaming industry. What if you could use your gaming console every day at home and at work?

Many engineering companies now use 3D modeling to develop new designs. As these designs get more detailed and complicated the computer horsepower required to display these images and renderings increases. What if they could buy a machine created for delivering high resolution rendering in an interactive environment for under $1k? What if it also had the ability to provide web conferencing, and a hands free interactive experience?

No this isn’t some high end custom PC, but your everyday gaming console.

Let’s compare the specs

Xbox One PlayStation 4 Engineering Workstation
CPU Cores/Threads 8/8 8/8 4/4
CPU Frequency 1.6GHz (est) 1.6GHz (est) 2.8Ghz
CPU µArch AMD Jaguar AMD Jaguar Intel Xeon
Shared L2 Cache 2 x 2MB 2 x 2MB 10MB
GPU Cores 768 1152 384?
Peak Shader Throughput 1.23 TFLOPS 1.84 TFLOPS 732.67 GFLOPS?
Embedded Memory 32MB eSRAM
Embedded Memory Bandwidth 102GB/s
System Memory 8GB 2133MHz DDR3 8GB 5500MHz GDDR5 4GB 1866Mhz DDR3
System Memory Bus 256-bits 256-bits 64-128-bits?
System Memory Bandwidth 68.3 GB/s 176.0 GB/s 31.4 GB/s
Manufacturing Process 28nm 28nm 32nm
Motion Interface Kinect 2 Camera (Extra) Extra
– Video 1080p 720p Extra
– Audio 4 Microphone Array 4 Microphone Array Extra
-Added Functionality Active IR, IR TOF depth sensing, 3D body tracking, heart rate tracking, Voice recognition Motion Sensing Extra
Cost $500 $460 $1,900

The biggest advantage of the desktop is the processor speed but for higher end graphics, memory management, and number of cores, the consoles win out. The biggest difference is the price, and in the end many times, cost is the single biggest deciding factor.

You could theoretically expand the desktop to include motion with a Kinect, or a Leap Motion and a microphone to provide this functionality but even at the basic computer you’re at almost 4 times the price of a gaming console with those options included.  There are also limitations in gaming consoles as they exist today. You will be hard pressed to find a copy of Microsoft Office for Xbox. I think this is where the gaming console divisions of these companies can seek to expand. The only reason I can see they haven’t expanded is it could impact their PC divisions.  However neither company has had a large desktop product line and Sony has recently offloaded their Vaio division. With more and more web based applications such as Microsoft Office Online, and a series of virtual applications, little work would be needed to turn these consoles into desktop replacements.

At my work, we have all sorts of conference rooms. Some of these rooms have advanced video cameras for teleconferencing that follow a speaker around the room. I don’t know how much they cost but I bet it was a lot. The gaming consoles have video available which is your basic web camera, with some better audio capabilities. The biggest advantage is the depth perception and ability for it to recognize people. Now you could have more interactivity in the video connection between the two parties. Imagine 2 groups with a virtual table on screen between them, add a 3D model and now the two groups can interact while on video.

Imagine a video conference between two car manufacturing divisions. They put up the next model in development. One side talks about color options and “grabs” a paint color from off the screen and colors the roof, and trim. Then the other side could rotate the car around and use their hand to open up the doors and point out features on the interior. Add in 3D CAD functions and they could do a karate chop and cross section the car to better show off the airbag locations. No mouse, no keyboard, just interacting almost naturally how you would interact with a physical mock up but with so many more options.

Gaming consoles also have voice/visual recognition routines, when someone starts talking it could bring up a little info about the person talking, their job title, contact information, etc. Even if  you never met, now you can call the person by name and make it a more personal conversation. Dealing with outside vendors it could also make you aware of any people that aren’t authorized to receive certain information.

You may be thinking, why hasn’t anyone done this before?  They have, sort of! In this article they discuss how the Rome Air Force Research lab created a supercomputer from 1,700 Playstations to make one of the cheapest supercomputers. There have also been stories of military companies using racks of gaming systems to run their simulators. It makes sense for simulators, especially with all the first person shooters on the market it’s a small step to military simulation.

The next time you look at your son, daughter, husband, wife, friend, etc. playing on their gaming console, just think of them as training for the future in computing. And yes, this totally justifies my purchase of an Xbox a few years back “for research”.

Gaming Console + Interactive Video = PC + video conference + 3D graphic engine.

Feel free to add your ideas in the comments. I’d love to hear how everyone else would use a gaming console outside the living room.

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