Residents of Chualar in Monterey County, California were mystified by a 310-foot big 'crop circle' that suddenly appeared in the middle of a barley field. It contained a stylized image of a computer chip and the number "192" in Braille. However, before anyone could scream "aliens!" the mystery was solved. The cuplrit was Nvidia.
This was part of Nvidia's publicity in announcing the Tegra K1, a new chip for tablets and smartphones that contains 192 computing "cores," or mini-computers, for graphics applications. In a press conference held just before the official opening of the 2014 International CES in Las Vegas, Nevada, Nvidia CEO Jen-Hsun Huang said that he had given his marketing department the mission to promote the chip on a shoe-string budget. And the scheme worked. The crop circle received wide attention.
The new Tegra K1 chip allows a tablet to be more powerful than an Xbox 360 ot PlayStation 3 game console, while consuming only one-twentieth the power. This latest chip was developed in light of the rising popularity of tablets as a popular platform for gaming, which served to undermine Nvidia's core business of creating powerful chips for games played on the PC. Its prior forays into providing chips for smartphones and tablets have been overshadowed, however, by QualcommInc.
But with the Tegra K1, "We've bridged the gap - we've brought mobile computing to the same level as desktop computing," Huang said.
The publicity stunt, as explained by Brett Murray, Nvidia's marketer, stemmed from the chip's tag line, "Impossibly advanced," and the idea jumped to aliens, and then to crop circles. A suitable location was found, and the company flew in a British group who have made crop circles before. The puzzle design included clues as to who was behind it, such as the number 192 which was posted in two ways in the design - as numbers on a clock and as a Braille representation.
The company also called anonymous tip lines for news stations in the area, and a YouTube video was uploaded showing two men getting out of a car and looking at strange lights coming from the barley field. In reality, it was Murray and another Nvidia employee. Soon enough, news trucks came rolling in. It was a successful publicity stunt. As for the chip itself, Huang didn't announce when the chip would be available or any gadget makers that were adopting it, but Nvidia is very keen on developing this chip and has showcased it at CES 2014.