Intel hopes 48-core chip will solve new challenges

The 1.3-billion transistor processor, called Single-chip Cloud Computer (SCC) is successor generation to the 80-core "Polaris" processor that Intel's Tera-scale research project produced in 2007. Unlike that precursor, though, the second-generation model is able to run the standard software of Intel's x86 chips such as its Pentium and Core models.

The cores themselves aren't terribly powerful--more like lower-end Atom processors than Intel's flagship Nehalem models, Intel Chief Technology Officer Justin Rattner said at a press event here. But collectively they pack a lot of power, he said, and Intel has ambitious goals in mind for the overall project.

"The machine will be capable of understanding the world around them much as humans do," Rattner said. "They will see and hear and probably speak and do a number of other things that resemble human-like capabilities, and will demand as a result very (powerful) computing capability."

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