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Nvidia's Tegra X1 infotainment system is actually rather awesome

Nvidia's Tegra X1 infotainment system is actually rather awesome

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Nvidia makes a tradition out of two things: hosting the first major press conference of CES and using it to launch yet another super powerful mobile chip. The unconventional aspect about today is that the new Tegra X1 is a superchip designed to be embedded inside cars. It has 256 graphics cores, eight processing cores, and enough power to play back 4K video at 60fps. All those numbers will be put to use in building up a very ambitious plan for increased car awareness and a proliferation of screens inside the car, but the X1's most immediate demonstration is in the central infotainment hub. I got to play with it briefly after Nvidia's press event and it left me with a positive impression.

It's not revolutionary, it's just cool

Nvidia's demo infotainment system has five main areas: one each for music and in-car controls, one for smartphone integration via things like Android Auto, one for viewing feeds from cameras around the car, and a final one for navigation. Nothing's incredibly fancy about this interface, but the 3D navigation is presented in a really cool, ghostly look, and is navigable via the typical touchscreen gestures. Though the demo unit in the video above didn't respond to all my gestures, errors were the exception rather than the rule, and it just felt pleasingly futuristic to be navigating my way around a beautifully animated wireframe city. Because of the vast, vertically oriented screen, everything's big and easy to read, and you can also split the screen into two: dedicating a half to, say, the music controls, and another for navigation.

nVidia car platform
Photo by The Verge

There's nothing revolutionary to report here, and no carmaker has committed to implementing this exact system, but it still presents an appealing vision of future interactions inside the car. The Tegra X1 is helping to deliver fast and fluid interactions, and Nvidia's pointing in the right direction with its software, aiming for pretty simplicity — so that the UI can remain glanceable and easily navigable — instead of overbearing complexity tacked on just to show off the power within.