My first PDA was a Philips Velo 500, which ran Windows CE and used a 75 MHz MIPS PR31700 processor. Indeed, MIPS manufactured a number of processors for these early devices but have been quiet in the mobile device arena. MIPS were acquired by Imagination Technologies and have been chasing other markets, but today I'm bringing you news of a new processor from the business designed for wearable devices: the M200 chip and companion Newton2 developer platform. This is an asymmetric dual core processor based around a 1.2 GHz XBurst application processor for the heavy lifting and a low power 300 MHz processor core for background duties, in some respects similar to a number of Nvidia's Tegra processors with their low power companion core designed for low power consumption. However, low power consumption doesn't mean low performance: the M200 has support for OpenGL ES 2.0 including the H.264 codec, up to 720p resolution at 30 fps. It might not sound like the most powerful processor out there, and it isn't, but MIPS is designing this for wearable devices and, of course, all manner of products that belong under the Internet of Things umbrella.
The Newton2 is an integrated design environment encompassing the M200 processor, memory, power management control, WiFi, Bluetooth and connectors for display, audio and camera. The board is capable of running either Android or Linux, which makes it an interesting product for all manner of developers. The Newton2 is also a tiny board, measuring 15 mm by 30 mm, consuming under 3 mW in standby and 150 mW at full load. This is considerably less than Exynos, Snapdragon or Tegra processors used in our smartphones, but they are more powerful. The M200 includes specific low power modes plus the ability to be switched up and down by programmable triggers such as voice activation.
Imagination Technologies envisages the Newton2 being used for a wide number of products including augmented reality headsets, smartwatches, cameras, fitness bands, sleep sensors and healthcare monitoring devices. MIPS have demonstrated a smartwatch using the processor, the GEAK Watch 2 shown below, which delivers over 15 days of battery life. And it's battery life that is likely to limit the adoption of wearable technology: people are used to a watch needing a new battery every couple of years, or being recharged via movement, so taking the device off every night and recharging feels a little bit alien. Some designs are much better than others - putting the Moto 360 onto a wireless charger is a brilliant idea - but they're still limiting. Only needing to put my smartwatch onto a charger once a week is a much better idea.