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Now Available: Innovators Under 35 2013 See The 2013 List »

Credit: Courtesy of RapidMind

Stefanus Du Toit, 25

Programming for parallel processors


PROBLEM: As the ever-shrinking computer chip begins to run into fundamental physical limits, designers have begun building multiple processor "cores" onto each chip to improve performance. But writing software that can run in parallel on multiple cores is complicated and time consuming, and few programmers have the expertise to do it. As a result, most of the capacity on a multicore chip goes to waste.

Solution: Stefanus Du Toit has created software that makes it easier to translate traditional serial programs into parallel programs. He began its development as a graduate student at the University of Waterloo, in Ontario; in 2004 he cofounded RapidMind, in Waterloo, to commercialize it. The company has raised $10 million and partners with Advanced Micro Devices, Hewlett-Packard, IBM, and others.

With RapidMind's technology, programmers write software in C++ as usual; then they use a special interface to specify which parts of the program should be parallelized. The platform automatically parcels out those tasks among the cores. It builds code into the final program that manages workload, ensuring that each core is fully utilized and preventing errors such as one task's stalling while it waits for another to finish. Finally, the platform optimizes the program to run on a particular chip--say, an eight-core chip from Intel. The finished program runs more efficiently; in one example, an image-­processing application rewritten with the RapidMind platform ran 10 times as quickly on eight cores as on a single processor. --Neil Savage

2008 TR35 Winners

Blaise Agüera y Arcas

Building immersive 3-D environments

Dries Buytaert (video)

Simple, flexible Web publishing

Jenova Chen (video)

Gaming with the flow

Tanzeem Choudhury (video)

Inferring social networks automatically

Jack Dorsey (video)

Personal updates made simple

Stefanus Du Toit (video)

Programming for parallel processors

Seth Hallem

Deconstructing software to find bugs

Xian-Sheng Hua

Enhancing video search

Sundar Iyer

Making memory at Internet speed

Farinaz Koushanfar

Locking microchips to prevent piracy

Johnny Lee (video)

Streamlining human-computer interactions

Meredith Ringel Morris (video)

Searching websites jointly

Andrew Ng

Building household robots

Adam Smith (video)

Making sense of e-mail madness

JB Straubel (video)

Engineering electric sports cars

Eric Wilhelm (video)

Putting DIY projects online

Robert Wood (video)

Building robotic flies


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