by Tony Kontzer

The GPU computing poster board brigade has arrived at the San Jose McEnery Convention Center, home of NVIDIA’s GPU Technology Conference (GTC).

GPUs are typically associated with gaming PCs, mobile phones and video game consoles. But GPU technology has come a long way, and its impact is becoming much more widespread.

For proof, you need only wander through the concourse’s display of research poster boards, which give attendees a glimpse at the diversity of research being conducted using GPU technology.

No shortage of poster boards here

Evgeny Salnikov, a research engineer at Microsoft, stopped to admire one display detailing the work being done at the San Diego Supercomputer Center at University of California at San Diego. A team there is using GPUs to accelerate molecular dynamics and assist in the development of transformative drugs. While the findings don’t have much relevance to what his work, he said he would do more research on the topic after the conference – he’d never heard of GPUs being used in molecular dynamics.

That’s just the tip of the iceberg.

The posse of posters highlights how GPU technology is making possible what would have been inconceivable just a few short years ago. And, in keeping with the increasingly international flavor of GTC, this work is happening all over the world. Here are a few examples:

  •  University of Sheffield’s Department of Automatic System Control and Engineering is sharing how it’s been using GPU clusters to simulate large-scale pedestrian evacuations. The goal is to help emergency response officials adjust evacuation plans in real time as conditions change.
  • A team from the Graduate School of Informatics at Middle East Technical University in Ankara, Turkey, has been using NVIDIA’s CUDA parallel computing platform and programming model to speed up camera sabotage detection. They believe this will reduce lapses in security and preserve computational power for other tasks such as object tracking and activity analysis.
  • Researchers from The Mitre Corp. in McLean, Va., a nonprofit that assists federal agencies by applying systems engineering and advanced technology to national problems, are reporting on efforts to use GPU technology to speed up fingerprint matching algorithms and allow quicker matching of fingerprints against databases containing tens of millions of identities.

Most of the posters on display generate theoretical discussions of possible applications, but some generate more practical interest. One such piece of research came from the Centro de Investigación en Matemáticas in Guanajuato, Mexico. Researchers have been tapping GPU technology to develop what is essentially a virtual green screen for video editing. The goal is to make it possible to superimpose part of a video over a particular part of another image or video, accounting for shadows, people walking in front of the resulting imagery and the like, and making all the necessary adjustments in real time.

These capabilities were of special interest to Dihong Tian, a technical leader at Cisco Systems who works on video conferencing systems. Tian says such capabilities have been prevented by computing and performance limitations, but that he’d be looking further into the Centro de Investigación en Matemáticas’ findings to determine if it’s feasible to implement them into future products.

Want more info on the poster boards being displayed at GTC? Find all GTC poster board abstracts here. (Use these filter settings: Event = GTC, Year = 2012, Format = Poster)