There’s a huge semi-conductor shortage, but a recent Reuters article
makes it clear that there’s no easy fix for stingy chip supplies that are holding up the manufacturing of everything from cars to tablets and, possibly, smartphones.
I remember years ago Intel handing me a beautiful plate-sized silicon platter, explaining that this was the form of most semiconductors before they’re cut up into tiny chips and packaged.
That process, it turns out, happens not only in multiple steps but potentially in multiple places. These days, most of those places are outside the U.S. The Reuters article points out that it’s been more cost-effective to produce these chips outside the U.S. and, more interestingly, investment is mostly being steered toward cutting-edge chip technology, not the meat and potatoes stuff that, for instance, car cameras need.
The answer is not just money, though that will help, it’s building new FABs in the U.S. and ensuring that the entire process of creating chips can happen in or near those same buildings.
I think a larger concern here is that such a fix could take years, and, in the meantime, the chip shortage could worsen. If that happens, smart products might become scarce or, at the very least, much more expensive.
This is not the bright future we envisioned.
Last week, I stumbled on a fascinating AI experiment in art creation. A while back, graphics processor company NVIDIA created GauGAN (yes, named after the famous artist), an online system
that turns your doodles into realistic backgrounds.
I gave it a little test drive, drawing simple shapes that I defined as things like clouds, rocks, and water, and then letting GauGAN generate photo-realistic landscapes. NVIDIA wrote that they trained the system on real landscapes and then let the AI work out what a real image based on a simple doodle might look like.
You don’t need any art skills to try it and it really doesn’t appear to matter how poorly you sketch out your environment; GauGAN turns it into something special. In addition, if you don’t like GauGAN’s output, you can choose a different style (street, versus ocean, sky versus mountains) and get significantly different, though no less realistic, results.
Tomorrow is Apple’s Spring Product Event which should bring new M1 systems, tablets, and maybe more. You can prep today by reading my thoughts now