It Feels Like Magic

Prototyping isn’t quite Harry Potter magic, but it’s close.


Over the holidays I visited Universal Studios in Los Angeles with my family. The entire park is full of high tech so-called 4D rides as they add motion and other effects, like spraying water when someone sneezes, to a 3D movie. We were, for example, able to experience what it would be like if a bus gets caught in between King Kong and a t-rex fighting with each other.

Despite a wide range of these high tech rides, there was actually a completely different attraction that entertained my children longer than any other. In the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, which was really the main reason for our visit, you can buy wands that can be used throughout the Hogsmeade area of the amusement park. If you stand in the right location, wave the wand in the right way and say the magic words, something will happen (usually something will start to move or some audio starts to play).

Although my children are 9 and 11 and they understand that the wand isn’t really magical, they really enjoyed running around to all marked spots and try out the effect of the wand at that location. In fact, just deciding which wand to buy lasted longer than any other ride (including the wait time!).

Synopsys_It Feels Like Magic

I have to admit that I also tried a couple of magic spells. Even though my rational brain tells me that magic doesn’t exist, I never cease to hope that one day I will be able to perform real magic.

That is one reason why I like prototyping. There is something magical about preparing a prototype, loading it onto a prototyping system and seeing it come to life. While the design is still in development, you can start interacting with it: bring up software, validate functionality, and interact with the environment through real world interfaces like USB, Ethernet, PCI, etc.

It feels a little bit like a 3D printer for SoCs. You design something and implement it on a prototyping system. More and more customers, in this case the system houses or OEMs, want to experience an SoC before it is ready. In some cases, even before deciding which SoC to use in their next project. As a consequence, prototypes are not only used to pull in the verification, software development and system validation tasks, they are also used as product demonstration. A great example of this is in embedded vision applications where prototypes are even used inside cars to demonstrate the capabilities of a next generation ADAS (advanced driver assistance system) chip.

So while my children like waving their Harry Potter wands, I enjoy the magic ability of prototyping to enable the development of new products that we couldn’t have imagined 5 years ago. Both feel a bit like magic.

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