Intel has started the engine on its hype machine for its first ever commercial discrete graphics products, expected to launch within the next couple of years, with invitations to 'Join the Odyssey.'

By units shipped, Intel is far and away the largest vendor of graphics processing units. These GPUs, however, do not come in the form of add-in boards, but are integrated graphics processing units (iGPUs) built into the company's central processing unit (CPU) and system-on-chip (SoC) products. That's not to say Intel hasn't had its eye on the discrete graphics market for some time, though: Following the commercial failure of 1998's i740 Intel would attempt a return to the market in 2007 when it unveiled Project Larrabee, a highly-parallel add-in board product based on Intel architecture cores and aiming at everything from physics simulation to high-performance graphics.

By 2008 Intel was looking for board partners, in much the same way as Nvidia and AMD, and in 2009 boasted that the architecture was more efficient than traditional GPUs at rasterisation. While wafers, die shots, and even a live demo would follow, Larrabee's days were numbered: One year ahead of its planned commercial release the consumer graphics portion of Project Larrabee was unceremoniously cancelled and buried, though the core technology lives on as the Xeon Phi family of co-processor boards.

Clearly hoping that the third time is the charm, Intel confirmed it was having another shot at toppling Nvidia and AMD's duopoly after hiring former AMD Radeon Technologies Group head Raja Koduri to lead a new division dubbed the Core and Visual Computing Group. Since then the company has been playing its cards close to its chest: While demonstrating a discrete GPU prototype in February 2018 the company denied it was in any way related to any planned commercial products, and in the year that has followed has released little more than a short teaser video and the promise of a launch in 2020.

Now, though, the company appears to be revving the engine of its hype machine in the countdown to launch. In a short video posted to the official Intel Graphics Twitter account, in which a dramatic landscape is described as 'the path to a new visual experience for a billion people,' Intel has invited followers to provide feedback on its plans. 'This is more than a journey,' the accompanying message reads. 'It is an Odyssey to improve visual computing experiences. But we can’t do it alone. We invite our community to join us. #JoinTheOdyssey'

The video goes on to claim that Intel will 'listen, learn, improve, to do things differently together'. In follow-up messages, Intel confirms that 'we will be sharing news & information about Intel's graphics and visual computing efforts from now through 2020 and beyond. We will be listening to feedback, and hopefully finding technical enthusiasts who might want to help us with beta testing and things like that.'

The slightly odd capitalisation of 'Odyssey' may hint at Intel's planned branding for the discrete graphics products it plans to launch next year; equally, it may simply be the name the company has assigned to its promotional efforts. Those following the link in the tweet are asked to register their details for newsletters and to pick their closest location for an as-yet unannounced series of events - more on which is expected to be provided at the Game Developers Conference (GDC) in March during an Intel event called, unsurprisingly, 'The Odyssey'.

The form, which asks for email, name, country, and the aforementioned closest event location, includes the following verbiage: 'The Odyssey is built around a passionate community, focused on improving graphics and visual computing for everyone, from gamers to content creators. And we want voices like yours to help guide us,' the message claims. 'We’re committed to listening to the community, and in return you will get closer to the inner workings of visual technology development than ever before.

'You’ll hear the latest reports first and you’ll have access to some amazing offers and exclusive giveaways. The Odyssey is about how we’ll work together to build the visual computing solutions you really want. You also have the opportunity to receive the Intel Gaming Access newsletter which gives gamers a VIP pass to killer deals and freebies, preferred beta access, the latest gaming news, and more. Fill out the form to Join the Odyssey and help guide the future of graphics and visual computing.'

Interested parties can sign up on the official website.

UPDATE 20190222:

This article has been updated to reflect the existence of the Intel i740, which the author had entirely forgotten before being gently nudged in the comments.

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