SAN FRANCISCO Fabless programmable logic vendor MathStar Inc. Monday (April 23) unveiled an MPEG2 multi-stream decoder for its MOA1400D field programmable object array (FPOA).
According to Mathstar (Hillsboro, Ore.), the MPEG2 decoder is the first intellectual property (IP) added to its new professional video library for FPOAs. Mathstar said it plans to offer support for additional video decoders and encoders, as well as image processing applications.
"This is the first very major piece of IP that we are announcing in this area," said Dan Sweeney, Mathstar chief operating officer. "It's really the beginning of the library that we are going to be rolling out."
Professional video applications are one of a handful of target markets that Mathstar executives say they are targeting with FPOAs off-the shelf programmable parts billed as offering "ASIC-like" 1-gigahertz performance, but with the time-to-market and low non-reoccurring engineering (NRE) offered by FPGAs.
According to Eric Cigan, a Mathstar product marketing manager focused on the company's design tool offerings, Mathstar's strategy is to establish a "beachhead" for FPOAs among system designers in professional video, machine vision, test and measurement, medical imaging, military/aerospace, and digital signal processing applications. These markets have been targeted, Cigan said, because they are algorithmically based markets in which customers value the ability to reprogram devices.
Cigan touted a simplified design process as one of several advantages that Mathstar says FPOAs offer over FPGAs. Because FPOAs are comprised of 16-bit hardware "objects," each of which operate at 1 GHz, there is no need to perform a timing closure process, which can be a difficult and tedious step in FPGA design, Cigan said. Also unlike the FPGA flow, FPOA design requires no RTL synthesis step.
"Customers are very excited about this design flow being fairly clean compared to what they may have been accustomed to," Cigan said. "We can really appeal to both the hardware designer and the algorithm designer that might be a little frustrated [with the FPGA design flow]."
Mathstar said the MPEG2 multi-stream decoder, when running on an MOA1400D, supports up to four simultaneous standard definition video streams, or one high-definition video stream. Since the MOA1400D FPOA is a reprogrammable device, it can be reconfigured in the field to support many different types of video decoders, the company said.
Mathstar hasn't publicly disclosed the cost of its FPOAs. Sweeney said the products are priced similarly to high-end FPGAs.