Why Are Graphics Systems So Fast?

23 Feb
02/23/2011 -
11:00am to 12:00pm
Distinguished Lecturer Series

Prof. Pat Hanrahan
Stanford University
Computer Science and Electrical Engineering Departments

Computer Science Building, Rooms 150 & 151

Faculty Host: Rui Wang

Over the last decade graphics hardware has become a key component of mobile and personal computers. Most programmers understand CPUs well, but have a limited understanding of GPUs (Graphics Processing Units). GPUs are viewed as specialized hardware optimized for rendering. That view is not accurate. Instead, they are best characterized as parallel computers that combine many cores, many threads, and wide vector processing units. In this talk, I will describe the architectures of different GPUs built by AMD, NVIDIA and Intel (the new Larrabee processor). I will also discuss the programming models that are used to achieve high performance on such heterogenous architectures. The innovative combination of processor design and programming model are why graphics systems are so fast.


Pat Hanrahan is the CANON Professor of Computer Science and Electrical Engineering at Stanford University where he teaches computer graphics. His current research involves visualization, image synthesis, virtual worlds, and graphics systems and architectures. Before joining Stanford he was a faculty member at Princeton.

Pat has also worked at Pixar where he developed developed volume rendering software and was the chief architect of the RenderMan(TM) Interface - a protocol that allows modeling programs to describe scenes to high quality rendering programs. In addition to PIXAR, he has founded two companies, Tableau and PeakStream, and served on the technical advisory boards of NVIDIA, Exluna, Neoptica, VSee and Procedural.

Professor Hanrahan has received three university teaching awards. He has received two Academy Awards for Science and Technology, the Spirit of America Creativity Award, the SIGGRAPH Computer Graphics Achievement Award, the SIGGRAPH Stephen A. Coons Award, and the IEEE Visualization Career Award. He was recently elected to the National Academy of Engineering and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

A reception will be held at 3:40 in the atrium, outside the presentation room.