Keynote: Pat Hanrahan

Computer Science and Electrical Engineering Departments, Stanford University

Monday, September 14. 9:00am.
Chair: Sally A. McKee

Why are Graphics Systems so Fast?

Most programmers understand CPUs well, but have a limited understanding of GPUs. GPUs are viewed as highly specialized, fixed-function units optimized for rendering, but that view is inaccurate. Instead, they are are best characterized as parallel computers that combine multiple cores, many threads, and wide vector processing units. GPUs simultaneously combine all the major classes of parallel architectures in a single processor. In this talk, I will describe the architectures of different GPUs built by AMD, NVIDIA, and Intel (the new Larrabee processor), highlighting different design decisions. I will also discuss the programming models used to achieve high performance on such heterogenous architectures, since it is precisely the innovative combination of processor design and programming model that makes graphics systems run 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. 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 for high-quality rendering programs. Before Pixar, he directed the 3D computer graphics group in the Computer Graphics Laboratory at New York Institute of Technology. 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, to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and as a Fellow of the ACM.