San Jose (CA) - Ok, so Jen-Hsun Huang’s keynote speech at NVISION wasn’t very technical, but it sure had a bunch of eye candy. Nvidia’s CEO and co-founder showed off everything from virtual super cars to the very real and gorgeous Tricia Helfer (Battlestar Galactica’s Cylon vixen). "Welcome to the era of visual computing," Huang proclaimed and there’s no doubt that over the next few days in San Jose Nvidia is pulling out all the stops in convincing attendees that its cards are best.
While many people in the press had been expecting Huang to talk more about CUDA and supercomputing applications of modern graphics cards, there was actually nothing new mentioned. Huang touted GPU supremacy in Folding@Home computations and said latest figures show 24386 GPUs are being used in the protein folding simulator and this is generating 1.4 petaflops worth of computing power.
What if you could render objects so photorealistic that you couldn’t tell them apart from a clay model or prototype? This is what Peter Stevenson of RTT showed when he was introduced by Huang on the stage. His company helped Lamborghini virtually prototype an upcoming car. Only 20 units of this 1.5 million Euro car will be built and already they have sold out thanks to the prototyping technology.
Stevenson explained that such a limited production car cannot be shown off at Lamborghini dealerships, so customers could view the 3D prototype online and at the nearest Lamborghini location. The CAD data is rendered in real-time and shows amazing detail - everything down to the leather and suede can be seen. There’s even the distinctive cross-web pattern and sheen of carbon fiber panels.
Taehoon Kim, President and founder of Nurien Software demonstrated his company’s virtual avatar technology which plants your alter-ego (in this case a much taller and fit version of Jen-Hsun) into a customizable room. Unlike the United States, games in Asia rely on micro-payments and the initial game is free while improvements like new clothes, actions and even furniture are purchased for a few cents to dollars each. Kim showed off the virtual Jen-Hsun sporting some very nice pimping threads and a virtual girl friend. Huang joked, "So I pay for that right?"
Just walking around a virtual room is one thing, but how do you have fun in such an environment. Kim made his avatar dance and doing the correct moves earns currency that can then be used to buy further customizations. He even made the virtual Jen-Hsun break dance on a virtual dance floor.
While this is all good, the overwhelmingly male audience was waiting for Battlestar Galactica star Tricia Helfer who played Cylon number 6. She explained how tough it is to act in modern shows which use heavy compositing to add in effects and characters in post production. Many of the other Cylons and Centurions are represented by cardboard cutouts and hanging tennis balls during the live shot. These of course are replaced by special effects afterwards.
Helfer thanked the audience for providing all the technology that makes Battlestar Galactica possible, but wagged her finger at us and joked that we shouldn’t go overboard on artificial intelligence - it has a nasty way of biting us back.