What is Intel’s graphic “Odyssey”?

I sat there refreshing Twitter, waiting for the promised announcement to land on the @IntelGraphics feed, trying to remember if I’d ever waited for a Twitter-based NDA before. Ah, there it was, an announcement about “The Odyssey.” Intel used a bunch of words that sort of made sense, but there was no clear or cohesive understanding of what, exactly, this Odyssey thing was or why it existed. We just knew that it had something to do with Intel’s bold and risky discrete graphics endeavor. Along with the announcement, you could sign up for events at locations across the globe, but again, there were no further pertinent details. We reached out to Intel for some answers, and we ended up on the phone with Chris Hook, Intel’s director for Visual Technologies Marketing.

As vague as this informationless graphic

Any update on those discrete graphics?

Hook confirmed some of what we already knew about Intel’s discrete graphics. The company is planning a whole stack, from its existing integrated graphics all the way up to the highest end. Intel plans to duke it out with Nvidia and AMD on gaming, but also has an eye on the data center, and on content creation, and expects to ably serve graphics capabilities to its one-billion-strong install base.

The blue wave of Intel graphics will begin crashing on our proverbial shores starting in 2020. For consumers, that feels like a long ways off; but for the people inside Intel working on the launch(es), it must feel like a downright claustrophobic amount of time. 

There is so much we don’t know about Intel’s planned hardware, including simple blocking and tackling like whether it will have ranks of AIB partners like AMD and Nvidia do, or if it will make its own cards, or both. Hook admitted that they (meaning the Intel discrete graphics evangelists) need to start revealing more of those sorts of details. And they will, soon. For now, the job is generating buzz, building up expectations, and showing activity of some kind. That’s where the Odyssey comes into play.

What is the Odyssey, exactly?

Simply and crassly put, the Odyssey an effort by Intel to simultaneously goose potential customer engagement, engender goodwill with the enthusiast community, and conduct granular and grassroots market research. “The Odyssey” is just a fancy name for a forum-type program that includes communications like newsletters and social media, with a live event component. 

“The Odyssey is a whole bunch of things,” said Hook. “It’s a beta program, it’s a two-way conversation, it’s a listening opportunity, and the net result I’m hoping for is that once we start to launch more visual computing platforms—discrete graphics, things like that—that the community is going to be excited because they’d had a chance to provide that input and are getting products and technologies that they’re really excited about.”

Appropriately enough, the Odyssey’s origin story has grassroots, uh, roots. “The engineering teams at Intel really want to do the right things in terms of bringing a better visual experience to market, whether that’s from the perspective of having drivers on day one […] or having better gaming controls in a control panel,” Hook said. “But there wasn’t that connection between engineering teams and the community. That was an opportunity for us.”

So they began experimenting. After a Reddit AMA with some of the Intel Graphics folks proved successful from a marketing perspective, Hook said “We took that on tour inside the company, and we went door to door with it.” He noted that they received “great feedback” internally, as well as key insights they hadn’t gleaned before. Then they decided to formalize the whole thing, and the Odyssey was born. 

The live events

One of the most confusing bits about the original announcement was a page where you were supposed to sign up for live events at geographic locations around the world. But there were no dates, and no details. Turns out, this is a long play. Intel wants the Odyssey to have a strong community meetup bent, but it needs to tinker with the format. 

The first pilot meetup will be March 20 at GDC in San Francisco. “The people who joined the Odyssey in the Bay area will be invited to that and will be allowed to attend on a first-come, first-served basis,” Hook said. Intel people like Raja Koduri will be there, and there will be technology demos. “But really, we’re using it as a platform to meet the community, and also to kick off a beta program for the new control center that we’re rolling out in the first half of 2019,” Hook added.

The idea is to have a little fun while offering real opportunities for Intel to engage with enthusiasts. “We’re not going to put people through a two-hour presentation,” Hook assured us. “There will be a short, quick, 25-minute presentation. We’re going to formally announce the new control panel [and] the beta program.” He said there will be “special guests” from the gaming community, as well as discussions about issues in gaming that graphics and visual computing platforms can allegedly solve. To be clear: It’s a meetup, not a press event.

Depending on how it goes, and the feedback from attendees, Intel will adjust its approach to future events—the ones that you can sign up for but that don’t exist yet. And the company is trying to gauge interest in those events with that informationless signup page, hoping to understand what sort of numbers to expect. Perhaps only a few hundred people will show up to São Paulo, but maybe they could nab 10,000 for Beijing. 

Who is the audience?

Technically, this is all open to the public, but Intel hopes to attract a certain type of “public.” They’re targeting true enthusiasts, the ones who deeply care about these things and have some knowledge about them. For example, Hook said they reached out specifically to enthusiast PC media outlets like The Tech Report rather than a more general audience. (Wait, does that make us pawns? Dangit!) The @IntelGraphics Twitter handle is even strategic, designed to separate all Intel users (which, again, is around a billion people according to Hook) from the main @Intel handle to a more specific category. 

Thus, although technically the Odyssey and the associated events are open to the public, Intel’s strategy it to lure in hardcore enthusiasts rather than the unwashed masses. The events are tuned that way, too; the “celebrities,” for example, are Intel engineers, not movie stars. 

 

Slaying sleeping giants

We couldn’t let Hook go before pressing him on the big, burning question: Why is Intel doing all of this? PR and events aside, making a dent in the discrete graphics market is a formidable task, to say the least. Intel already has its hands full, with the decline of Moore’s Law and public whiffs on process node shrinks denting the chipmaker’s armor, not to mention the “ryze” of AMD as a true competitor in the CPU space over the last couple of years. 

Hook fully acknowledges the great challenge that looms ahead. But he’s optimistic, and he makes it seem like Intel is positively crackling with excitement over its discrete graphics endeavor. 

Of course, this is precisely the time to be excited. Intel has recently looted AMD’s RTG group of talent, and there’s what amounts to almost a blank slate that all those engineers can work from. It’s true that Nvidia and AMD have had a 25-year head start, but for hungry and ambitious workers, the notion of putting their own stamp on a discrete graphics roadmap must be tantalizing. Enthusiasts are buzzing over the prospect of a true challenger to the graphics establishment. Nvidia and AMD are surely annoyed at best and worried at worst. And there’s still more than three full quarters before Intel has to show anything at all for its efforts. I imagine meeting rooms around the company are full of brainstorms and moonshots, and lots of new employees are enjoying the salary boosts that lured them from their previous employers.

Next year will be a different story. Expectations will be high, and consumers will be impatient. This is where the unbridled optimism gives way to pragmatism. “We’re not going to be able to deliver everything on January 1st, 2020,” said Hook. “It’s going to take time to do it right.”

Hook admitted that Intel needs to learn from past mistakes. He also said, bringing things back around to the original impetus for the conversation, that “I think for us to be successful, we have to look at discrete graphics as a grassroots movement.” (An odd take, perhaps.) He continued, “My belief is that something like the Odyssey […] really is the core of the marketing. And there’s still a lot of other things we have to do, but this is the thing we have to do first.”

Some of the practical parts, though, are themselves reason for optimism. Hook pointed to the roster of fresh talent, Intel’s rich graphics IP, and the investments the company has and will make into the venture. 

I stopped him and asked if he thinks that Intel can and will spend what it needs to. Answer: “I absolutely do.” 

He also pointed out that there may be an opportunity to catch the competition on its heels. Nvidia and AMD, Intel seems to have decided, believed that there would never be another serious entrant into the discrete GPU space. “It was clear that some of the market participants were getting really comfortable,” said Hook. He added, “At the same time, there are a lot of people who are disenchanted with Nvidia, and Radeon,” gracefully avoiding saying the name of his most recent former employer. “I think our opportunity to be successful is that we have to be joined at the hip with the community.”

The optimism re-emerged: “Between the talent, the IP block, and just the willingness to win, I think we’re going to do really well in the space. But,” he added with a tongue-in-cheek flourish that probably won him a gift card or something, “It’s…an odyssey.”

Indeed it will be. Competition always benefits consumers, so in that sense, Intel stomping its way into the discrete graphics market will be good for all of us. But in a year, we’ll see if chipzilla can begin to deliver on its promises.

 

Comments closed
    • rUmX
    • 8 months ago

    Reminds me of the Canadian TV show [url<]https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Odyssey_(TV_series)[/url<]

    • danbert2000
    • 8 months ago

    Nothing pisses me off more than marketing bullcrap like “Odyssey.” They are just farming gullible parrots to try to get people to “attach” to the Intel graphics brand with no cards in sight. Show us the cards, show us the performance, and if it’s good we’ll buy it. Like always.

    But don’t screw it up, because if you hype the shit out of cards that can’t even beat a 1660 Ti, then people are not going to forget how full of crap you are.

    Seriously, I want to slap whoever came up with this exercise in content-free press releases, and I would suggest that Tech Report doesn’t buy too much into this PR hot air balloon.

      • nanoflower
      • 6 months ago

      They can’t release the cards until they are ready. So doing something to both build up the hype/interest and gather more information on what people want from their graphics (both the hardware and the software) makes perfect sense. You may not care for the marketing side of the business but every company has to engage in it. As said above there’s no real need to pay any attention until Intl has hardware to show but I don’t blame Intel for engaging in marketing or the Tech Report for paying attention to it.

    • DoomGuy64
    • 8 months ago

    Intel’s probably going to capitalize on integrated where AMD is deliberately holding back. AMD could easily be selling Xbox level APUs, but refuse because selling a cpu+gpu is more profitable. Intel can monopolize this market if they put the work into it.

    • Srsly_Bro
    • 8 months ago

    Recall the day Dr. Su dropped off Raja at Intel HQ with the story that he wasn’t happy where he worked. It will be important later.

    • Firestarter
    • 8 months ago

    wait do I need to be paying attention to this or can I safely keep ignoring any and all sentences/articles/tweets/videos that combine “intel” and “graphics” ?

      • K-L-Waster
      • 8 months ago

      Feel free to tune out until there is an actual card with an actual set of benchmarks that can actually be ordered.

        • Firestarter
        • 8 months ago

        thanks

    • Anonymous Coward
    • 8 months ago

    This screams for someone to predict what happens when Intel gets to market.

    AMD struggles to keep up, but I’ll be [i<]real surprised[/i<] to see Intel beat nVidia head-to-head. Nvidia isn't just leaving performance on the table, and they're not going to get lazy at this point in time. The practical effect of all this is going to be on integrated graphics, not discrete.

      • dragontamer5788
      • 8 months ago

      It will be difficult to predict when there’s no information.

      IMO, if Intel just releases a scaled-up Gen11 iGPU design with GDDR6 or HBM2, they’re going to fail. Mainly because Gen11 architecture is quite different from what AMD and NVidia are doing.

      Gen11 has fixed registers per OpenCL work-item, Larger L3-based shared memory (instead of faster L1 based like AMD/NVidia), and other differences. It will take a while before GPU programmers optimize their code to Gen11. I don’t necessarily see anything “wrong” per se with the design, its just that Intel’s iGPU design is very different, and therefore requires programmer effort to port code over.

      If Intel releases an architecture that’s more similar to Nvidia’s, I think they have a chance. Ex: AMD’s CPU was best when they stopped doing the funky CMT in Bulldozer, and implemented a uOp cache to offer Sandy-bridge like performance characteristics in Zen. That means that any code written for Intel’s Sandy Bridge will run well on Zen.

      AMD’s CPU division recognized that they were a market-follower. Its more important to emulate the performance-characteristics of the market-leader when you are a market-follower position.

      Historically, Intel is very, very [b<]bad[/b<] at playing the follower. Intel's culture makes their executives / engineers want to lead the world in programming. But developers don't always follow Intel's footsteps: see Itanium, Xeon Phi, Intel Atom (the tiny cell-phone version at least, not the netbook+ Atom), etc. etc. ---------- If history repeats itself, my guess is that Intel is going to release a [b<]fabulous[/b<] architecture, theoretically at least. But its going to be so dramatically different from NVidia / AMD that your typical GPU-programmer won't want to actually program the thing. 10 years later Intel gives up because of a lack of developer uptake.

        • cmrcmk
        • 8 months ago

        Since Intel is the #1 GPU manufacturer in the world (by units), if they put the new arch into their iGPUs, it seems like that’d be enough incentive to get all the middleware developers to target it. This would let the dGPUs reap the reward of Intel’s iGPU’s ubiquity.

        Honestly, I suspect the first gen Blue GPU will claim best in show from a synthetic/theoretical measure, but only get real world numbers at upper-midrange performance (e.g. RTX 2060/2070). It’ll be at a very competitive price to gain market share, though. Maybe the second or third spin will actually compete with the high end GPUs from AMD and Nvidia.

        Considering Intel’s market cap is twice the size of the other two combined, it’s more a question of willingness than possibility.

        • maxxcool
        • 8 months ago

        I *think* (hope really) they have learned their lesson from Itanic, the previous 2 failed GPU’s and their partner AMD’s weird dual issue-pipe sharing GPU from the early 2000’s ..

        I expect it to be equal to AMD offerings, not match Team Green and not be widely adopted for many many many years.

        Now that sounds crazy… and it is *IF* you dont have barrels of money just burning … for no reason. But intel does.

        **how many billions have been lost/written off to get the Surface to where it is today?**

        I expect decent success in under a decade ..

        • bfar
        • 8 months ago

        I think Intel has a fantastic opportunity.

        AMD isn’t putting money into r&d, and Nvidia has been driving prices so high, that even if Intel can’t compete on performance, they might be able to steal market share with the right price/performance pitch.

    • gru5354
    • 8 months ago

    Based on the chosen name, it will take Intel 10 years to get there and then no-one but some dog will recognize what it is and then it will end in homicides. Intel will also speak in riddles about the whole thing.

      • Voldenuit
      • 8 months ago

      [quote<] Intel will also speak in riddles about the whole thing.[/quote<] Many of the Greek oracles were high on fumes.

    • dragontamer5788
    • 8 months ago

    You know that you’re my Super Star
    No one else can take me this far
    I’m flipping the Switch
    Get ready for this
    Oh, let’s do the Odyssey

    Odyssey– Yes, see!
    [url=https://youtu.be/aioXn0ut6gE?t=79<]Odyssey, Odyssey![/url<] Odyssey-- Yes, see! [url=https://youtu.be/aioXn0ut6gE?t=79<]Odyssey, Odyssey![/url<] Odyssey-- Yes, see! [url=https://youtu.be/aioXn0ut6gE?t=79<]Odyssey, Odyssey![/url<]

    • bhtooefr
    • 8 months ago

    Welcome … to the Odyssey.

    This … is … the Odyssey. Welcome. This is the Odyssey; welcome … to the Odyssey. You can do anything on the Odyssey. Anything at all. The only limit is yourself. Welcome … to the Odyssey.

    Welcome … to the Odyssey. This is … the Odyssey. Welcome … to the Odyssey! This is the Odyssey, welcome! Yes … This … is the Odyssey.

    This is the Odyssey! And welcome to you, who have come on the Odyssey. Anything … is possible … on the Odyssey. You can do … anything on the Odyssey. The infinite is possible on the Odyssey. The unattainable is unknown on the Odyssey. Welcome to the Odyssey. This … is the Odyssey.

    Welcome to the Odyssey. Welcome. This … is … the Odyssey. Welcome … to the Odyssey! Welcome … to the Odyssey.

      • K-L-Waster
      • 8 months ago

      Sounds… circular…

      • Concupiscence
      • 8 months ago

      Hello, Zombo.

      • FranzVonPapen
      • 8 months ago

      So far Odyssey is about as content-free as Zombo, that’s for sure.

    • Star Brood
    • 8 months ago

    Once my kids are older and I can start getting back into PC gaming, outs going to be really nice to see 1080 Ti performance for under 200 bucks.

    • Hattig
    • 8 months ago

    Since Chris Hook and Raja Koduri left AMD, Intel’s graphics marketing has changed to be just the type of vague hype that AMD had in the past.

    And we know how that turned out, eh, Poor Volta?

    Intel – blue – BiGamey

      • Lordhawkwind
      • 8 months ago

      Don’t you mean Vega as Volta is Nvidia tech. Unfortunately with Vega AMD were releasing Zen at the same time and used all their resources and man power on Zen which left RTG short handed and cash crippled hence the botched Vega launch. If you under clock Vega it’s a stellar performer but the other thing that got in the way was the mining craze and hence the absurd prices they were selling for. Luckily I got mine on release day for £449 and two days later I could have sold it for double LOL.

    • Arbiter Odie
    • 8 months ago

    Hi Seth.

    • ronch
    • 8 months ago

    AMD – red
    Nvidia – green
    Intel – blue

    Is this a coincidence or a conspiracy?

      • fr8train
      • 8 months ago

      I was legit trying to come up with an “RGB” pun to work into this piece. I mean, it’s low-hanging fruit. Maybe next time.

      • auxy
      • 8 months ago

      Coincidence! (‘ω’) Red, green, and blue are the primary colors in an additive color scheme. People respond well to bright primary colors, so… there you go. Also remember that AMD used to be green!

        • cynan
        • 8 months ago

        Though AMD graphics (i.e., ATI) was always red.

      • pirate_panda
      • 8 months ago

      AMD – red – [b<]R[/b<]adeon Nvidia - green - [b<]G[/b<]eforce Intel - blue - [b<]B[/b<]???

        • Klimax
        • 8 months ago

        Bomb (both ways)
        BePower (Blue Power as analog to Green Force)
        Bling
        Bond
        ….

          • cmrcmk
          • 8 months ago

          Balefire

        • ronch
        • 8 months ago

        Brutus.

          • MOSFET
          • 8 months ago

          Brutus Lake

      • Gastec
      • 8 months ago

      Green for greed

      • alrey
      • 8 months ago

      blue is for IBM ?

      • derFunkenstein
      • 8 months ago

      I bet games look badass through a SCART cable.

      • Mr Bill
      • 8 months ago

      [url=https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_baryons<]Baryon[/url<] [url=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qpMvS1Q1sos<]It's all about the Pentaquarks![/url<]

    • Voldenuit
    • 8 months ago

    [quote<] Hook admitted that they (meaning the Intel discrete graphics evangelists) need to start revealing more of those sorts of details. And they will, soon. For now, the job is generating buzz, building up expectations, and showing activity of some kind. [/quote<] Can I get a job where my job is to generate buzz, build up expectation, and show activity without having any actual stated goals, plans, or products? intel, I'd send you my resume, but it sounds like I don't actually need anything in writing. Just ask about all dat buzz around ol' Voldy, don'tcha know?

      • chuckula
      • 8 months ago

      [quote<] Can I get a job where my job is to generate buzz, build up expectation, and show activity without having any actual stated goals, plans, or products?[/quote<] Ah HEEEELL no! It's mine! All mine! However, I hear that AMD never filled the spot of Mr. "The Fury is an overclocker's dream," so you might try over there. Just don't ask too many questions about what happened to your predecessor. #HeFailedSuForTheLastTime

      • Srsly_Bro
      • 8 months ago

      You could work at Valve pushing hl3, and take the 550 to work.

      Sounds like the perfect job to accomplish those goals.

    • chuckula
    • 8 months ago

    Unfortunately, no one can be told what The Odyssey is. You have to see it for yourself.

      • Redocbew
      • 8 months ago

      Woah, deja vu.

        • chuckula
        • 8 months ago

        Deja vu is what happens when Intel tries to change its graphics drivers to fix a bug [and makes another bug in the process].

          • Redocbew
          • 8 months ago

          I would respond to that also, but there’s no way to do it without saying more than six words at once, and it’s too early in the thread for some big dramatic monologue.

            • Voldenuit
            • 8 months ago

            You hear that, Mr. Redocbew? That… is the sound… of incredulity.

            • Mr Bill
            • 8 months ago

            Raja in a | sky blue | Osyssey | a sequel | composed to | Iliad
            .
            It takes more than six words in [url=https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dactylic_hexameter<]dactylic hexameter[/url<]. . with thanks to the example in the link - tee hee Down in a | deep dark | dell sat an | old cow | munching a | beanstalk

      • derFunkenstein
      • 8 months ago

      I’ve already played the Super Mario variant. You see one, you Odyssey’n em all.

        • Mr Bill
        • 8 months ago

        Arrrg, Prometheus wept!

      • Mr Bill
      • 8 months ago

      Its going to be Eypc?

      • Gastec
      • 8 months ago

      Take the Blue pill and you will see.

    • Vhalidictes
    • 8 months ago

    Ah, nice. Hopefully my next build will have an Intel GPU to go with the AMD CPU.

      • K-L-Waster
      • 8 months ago

      Did anyone just hear heads exploding?

      • tipoo
      • 8 months ago

      And your next car will have Nvidia!

        • chuckula
        • 8 months ago

        That does it: I’m going Amish! It’s the only way to be sure.

    • derFunkenstein
    • 8 months ago

    [quote<]We couldn't let Hook go before pressing him on the big, burning question: Why is Intel doing all of this? [/quote<] You mean, you couldn't let Hook off the [i<]hook[/i<], amirite?

      • ronch
      • 8 months ago

      Let’s just say, Hook was hooked.

      • chuckula
      • 8 months ago

      [quote<]Why is Intel doing all of this? [/quote<] We here at Intel have produced an [url=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PgYnIwfA2GY<]expensive PR video[/url<] just to answer that question.

        • derFunkenstein
        • 8 months ago

        A Lone Star and Barf video is always a good choice.

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