Distinguished speaker series: Professor Pat Hanrahan

Title: Why are Graphics Systems so Fast?


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 heterogeneous architectures. The innovative combination of processor design and programming model are why graphics systems are so fast.

About the speaker

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. He has also worked at Pixar where he developed volume rendering software and was the chief architect of the RenderMan Interface - a protocol that allows modeling programs to describe scenes to high quality rendering programs. 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.

IRMACS Theatre, ASB 10900
Tuesday, March 9, 2010 - 13:30