TOKYO Sony's next-generation Playstation will be a high-performance game console that brings a more natural, "emotional" feel to the game world, the company said.
Sony Computer Entertainment Inc. (SCE) announced the basic specifications of Playstation II in Tokyo on Tuesday (March 2) and said it plans to introduce the product to market next winter in Japan and in autumn 2000 in the United States and Europe. Sony's has already shipped over 50 million units of its earlier-generation Playstation worldwide.
Playstation II will feature a 128-bit CPU jointly developed by Toshiba Corp. and SCE, an embedded graphics chip called the Graphic Synthesizer developed in house, an I/O processor codeveloped with LSI Logic Corp., and an SPU2 sound synthesizer, which will be a second-generation version of the sound synthesizer used in current Playstations.
"We want to propose 'emotion synthesis,' " said Ken Kutaragi, executive vice president and co-chief operating officer of SCE, who has led Playstation R&D. "With this keyword, we want to realize the generation of emotion by calculation. We want to bring emotion that moves people into the real-time entertainment world."
Kataragi seemed to use "emotion" to refer to everything not fully expressed in the graphics technology of current game consoles, including the movements of nature, of humans and living creatures. Such graphics technology would create a world as involving and impressive as portrayed in movies, he said.
Such graphics will require a computer system with higher performance than current workstations and personal computers. To cope with the requirement, SCE developed a 128-bit CPU, that it calls an "Emotion Engine" and which was outlined at the International Solid-State Circuits Conference in San Franciso last month, one a single-chip Graphic Synthesizer that employs embedded DRAM technology.
The Playstation II's CPU, jointly developed by Toshiba and SCE, is an enhanced version of the device described at ISSCC. The device has floating-point performance of 6.2 Gflops and a bus bandwidth of 3.2 Gbytes per second that's achieved through the use of Direct Rambus DRAM in two channels. Running at 300 MHz, SCE said the CPU's performance surpasses that of any personal computer.
"Floating-point calculation performance will be the key factor for applications from now on," said Kutaragi. The 128-bit processor's floating-point performance is 15 times faster than what's found on a 400-MHz Pentium II and three times greater than what's available from a 500-MHz Pentium III, Kutaragi said.
That performance can process 66 million polygons/second of geometric and perspective transformations in 3-D computer graphics calculations, the company said.
The Graphic Synthesizer, a 0.25-micron chip with 42.7 million transistors on a 16.8-mm x 16.8-mm die, accepts a large volume of data flow from the CPU.
The Graphics Synthesizer realizes 2,560-bit data bandwidth, which Sony said is 20 times wider than on graphic accelerators for current personal computers. By integrating video memory and pixel logic on one chip, the chip has a total memory bandwidth of 48 Gbytes/s.
The parallel rendering processor operates at 150 MHz and has 16 parallel pixel engines and 4 Mbytes of multiport DRAM.
When rendering polygons, the Graphic Synthesizer has drawing capability of 75 million small polygons/s and 50 million polygons/s with 48 quad, 24-bit color and Alpha-z data. Pixel fill rate is 2.4 Gpixels/s. Compared with Silicon Graphics' InfiniteReality2 graphics workstation, SCE said the Graphic Synthesizer has several times higher performance in pixel fill rate and polygon rendering performanceIt also exceeds the performance of NEC Corp.'s PowerVR used in Sega's Dreamcast, which has performance of about 3 million polygons/s, SCE said.
Backward compatibility is an unusual feature of Playstation II, which will be the first game console which has full compatibility with its previous generation console, SCE said.
To realize the full compatibility, SCE jointly developed an I/O processor with LSI Logic. The core of the I/O processor is the CPU of the current Playstation. Its performance has been enhanced by the expansion of cache memory and by a new DMA channel architecture which increases the data-transfer rate by a factor of four. The newer chip integrates current Playstation functions plus the IEEE 1394 and Universal Serial Bus interfaces.
Like Dreamcast, which includes a communications capability that's strongly emphasized as a standard feature by Sega, Playstation II will also support communication capability. "But the communication technology will evolve further and the regulation differ in countries," Kutaragi said. "So we are going to provide communications capability through PC-card interface."
Though Playstation II is a powerful game console with various possibilities, "what we are going to do with partners is games," Kutaragi said. "In terms of marketing, we will focus on computer entertainment only."
Nobuyuki Idei, president and co-chief executive officer of Sony Corp., the parent of SCE, positioned the Playstation as one of Sony's four mainstay businesses, along with digital TV, the Vaio computer and digital imaging. "Playstation may be a radical challenge to the PC world which has been lead by Intel and Microsoft," Idei said. Sony will submit all of its resources capital, technology and engineers to support the company's Playstation business, he said.