Our Tokyo correspondent Anita Byrnes has had a guided tour of some of the fruits of research at Toshiba Corp’s Research and Development Centre in Kawasaki near Tokyo and reports that a number of computer-related technologies were on display. Toshiba’s Kawasaki Centre is the company’s main research lab; it focuses on research into materials and […]
Our Tokyo correspondent Anita Byrnes has had a guided tour of some of the fruits of research at Toshiba Corp’s Research and Development Centre in Kawasaki near Tokyo and reports that a number of computer-related technologies were on display. Toshiba’s Kawasaki Centre is the company’s main research lab; it focuses on research into materials and devices, information and communications systems, machinery and energy, ultra large scale integration and environmental technology, as well as basic research. Some of the laboratory’s claims to fame include the world’s first kanji dot matrix printer (1977), and first Japanese word processor (1978), the first prototype 4Mb dynamic RAM (1986), the first 10Tbps operation of an 8-bit Gallium Arsenide chip (1990), and the world’s first CCITT specification Asynchronous Transfer Mode switch (1990). In addition Toshiba is proud of its Cambridge Research Centre, also founded in 1991, which is the focus of its basic semiconductor physics research activities. Despite its desire to do more soft research, Toshiba’s strengths still appear to lie in the device field where it is building on its past achievements.
Floating point co-processor for unnamed RISC chip
In its ULSI laboratory, Toshiba is aiming to develop a high-performance floating-point unit for the next generation of RISC chips. The technology as outlined featured a 0.5 micron design rules 0.47 by 0.24 chip that will run at 320 MFLOPS in 32-bit Twin-Single mode, which computes two sets of 32-bit data in parallel using one instruction. This is higher than the 289 MFLOPS 64-bit floating point unit announced by Fujitsu Ltd at the International Solid State Circuits Conference this year. Toshiba’s unit will be part of a RISC chip – the engineers were loath to disclose what the CPU would be – for use in embedded applications, and in graphics and supercomputer applications.
01 micron CMOS technology for 4G-bit memory chips
In the quest to see just how small you can get in large-scale integration, and to clarify the fundamental problems involved in future silicon chips, Toshiba has been able to demonstrate 0.1 micron CMOS chips operating at room temperature, with the world’s shortest propagation delay (time taken to transmit a signal from one transistor to another) of 28pS per gate. Despite its miniaturisation, achieved with use of ultra-fine resist pattern technology and ultra-precise dry etching, the circuit can withstand up to 3V. It says this breaks through a technical barrier and offers the potential to achieve 4G-bit memory chips.
Transaction processing monitor, new object-oriented COOC
While not original research, Toshiba showed adaptations of existing technology that indicate its direction – towards fault-tolerant systems and multimedia development. A group has been working on a home-grown version of a transaction processing monitor such as Tuxedo, designed to enhance the reliability of a network system, assisting in both migration of data between a central operating system and a local system, and in peer-to-peer process migration, thus achieving fault tolerance. Engineers have also developed a concurrent object-oriented version of C. Called COOC, it was built to facilitate in-house projects such as writing concurrent software, and is said to be up to 90% more efficient by cutting the number of lines of code required to 10%. In COOC, objects are self-contained units combining specific data, functionality, concurrency and access control. Applications are built by combining these pre-defined components. it is compatible with C, Objective-C and C++.
Large-scale error-tolerant associative neural net
The object of Toshiba’s neural network research is to develop a large-scale (1m neurons+) associative memory model that can handle pattern-based processing in pattern inference and image retrieval systems. To date, researchers say, it has been difficult to expand the scale of a neural network, but Toshiba’s research offers two new techniques to increase the interaction between the component modules in an associative neural ne
twork, as represented by the Amari-Hopfield network model. One is simply the means to prevent error in one module affecting the performance of the whole network; the other technique is a multi-layer model for associated modules, in which the input layer acts as the interface for the hidden layers to provide a simple control mechanism. Co-operative-competitive interaction between modules enables the whole network to recognise a pattern even if one module has failed to recognise an individual part of it.
Optical multiplexing system for cable television
To date, optical multiplexing as used in transmission of cable television signals has involved the basic technique of intensity-modulated signals. Toshiba has developed a new optical multiplexing method which uses a microscopic laser to modulate the frequency of the signals. The technique does not require use of a wavelength division demultiplexer. It has applications in optical signal distribution systems, and supports simultaneous transmission of several tens of channels, compared to the four channels of 600Mbps of current technology. 1997 is the target date for introduction – if there is demand. Far fewer Japanese households than expected currently subscribe to the satellite broadcasting and digital radio services that are offered.
New man-machine control interface
Aiming for a new man-machine interface with operation that is easier than the glove used with virtual reality systems, Toshiba has developed a system that processes images from a video camera in real time, in order to understand the hand gestures. The system has potential as a new input method for computers, for robot control and in aids for handicapped people. A three-dimensional baton with coloured balls on the tips, and a glove with lights on the fingers were demonstrated as input devices, managed to turn a dial and push a slider.
Smoothing motion on LCD screens
Toshiba’s already impressive technology in the field of thin-film transistor active matrix screens – exploited by the joint venture with IBM Corp at their plant in Himeji, West Japan, is further enhanced by the latest technology, which aims to reduce the residual images on LCDs – caused by a delay in refreshing the images which causes viewers to see the track of a thrown ball. Toshiba’s new Level Adaptive Overdrive drive circuit modifies the signal to the individual screen pixels displaying images, changing them for the dynamic component of the image, achieving a fourfold better response time than in current technology, and an image almost as good as a cathode ray tubes Toshiba sees it arriving on the market in two to three years, including use in television screens.