May the force -- and 21 billion transistors -- be with you.
NVIDIA CEO Jensen Huang on Thursday lit up a gathering of hundreds of elite deep learning researchers at the Conference and Workshop on Neural Information Processing Systems -- better known as NIPS -- in Long Beach, Calif., by unveiling TITAN V, our latest GPU.
"What NVIDIA is all about is building tools that advance computing, so we can do things that would otherwise be impossible," Huang, dressed in his trademark black leather jacket, told the crowd as he kicked off the evening. "Our ultimate purpose is to build computing platforms that allow you to do groundbreaking work."
Twenty of the researchers -- selected at random -- received one of the first TITANs based on the company's latest Volta architecture.
The debut of TITAN V was followed another unveiling -- the premier of an original, Star Wars inspired piece of music performed live by 15 musicians from the CMG Music Recording Orchestra of Hollywood for the hundreds of researchers gathered for the event.
A Surprise Star Wars Serenade
After Huang described the music, a huge screen at the front of the room -- which was displaying images from Huang's presentation -- slid away to reveal the live orchestra. Hundreds of deep learning researchers craned their necks and stood on their stools to record the performance with their smartphones as they listened in stunned silence, before bursting into raucous applause at the end of the performance, prompting the performers onstage to take a bow.
"It was nice surprise," said deep learning pioneer Yann LeCunn, director of AI Research at Facebook and founding director of the NYU Center for Data Science of the performance.
LeCunn said he not only uses Volta-based GPUs for his research, he relies on a GeForce GTX 1080 at home for gaming and VR. "Jensen is a great, great showman, and it was a nice touch," he said of the performance.
LeCunn was just one of the legendary names in AI gathered at the event, which included Yoshua Bengio, head of the Montreal Institute for Learning Algorithms, whose work was among those singled out by Huang that night for an NVAIL Pioneering Research Award, and Nicholas Pinto -- one of the 20 in the crowd who won a TITAN V -- who is the deep learning lead at Apple.
The music highlighted just how far researchers like the ones gathered at NIPS have taken the world over the past five years.
Computers are now able to perform tasks -- such as voice recognition, image recognition and even musical composition -- once thought impossible for machines.
Pierre Beaudreau, whose Luxembourg-based startup, AIVA, created the AI that composed the evening's music, leads a team that uses a collection of GPUs -- including an NVIDIA TITAN Xp -- to do its work.
He said he's definitely adding a TITAN V to his arsenal. "I'm really excited about it," he said.
More wonders -- from startups tackling challenges in finance, energy, medicine, transportation and many more -- are coming. Tycho Tax, a researcher at startup Corti, is using GPU-powered deep learning to help create a voice-activated AI that will help coach emergency responders through tough situations.
GPUs are key to all these efforts. "If you use deep learning, you need to use GPUs -- otherwise you can't do deep learning," said Luca Rigazo, a researcher with Totemic Labs, which is doing work in elder care.
And the faster the better. "To realistically do anything at the speeds we need, you have to use GPUs," said Jason Fries, a postdoc at Stanford University whose work is powered by Volta-based NVIDIA Tesla V100 GPUs. The TITAN V promises to bring the power of Volta, our seventh-generation GPU architecture, to the desktops of AI researchers like these.
Thursday's surprise presentation is just the latest evidence of NVIDIA's unique relationship with researchers.
After the event wound down, audience members lingered to schmooze with NVIDIA's Ian Buck, Chief Scientist Bill Dally and Huang, who eagerly posed for photos late into the evening with knots of delighted researchers from all over the world.
"It is so great to be here to celebrate NIPS with you, the work you are doing is so incredibly important, and you get to enjoy the discovery of it every day," Huang said, citing breakthroughs in everything from transportation to healthcare. "It is such privilege for me to be part of this journey with you guys. Thank you."