The GPU Technology Conference (GTC), sponsored and organized by NVIDIA, is now in it's 8th year. The conference is technology-focused with an emphasis on our graphics processing is both driving computer innovation and solving computer-related problems at the same time.
This year, the GTC is primarily focused on three areas of GPU technology: autonomous cars, deep learning and virtual reality (VR). All three areas have been intensely developed by NVIDIA and other companies, but have only recently become a part of public conversation and media coverage, thus heightening the popularity and importance of this year's conference.
"We are still in the early stages of VR technology. NVIDIA is working closely with the early adopters and researchers."
-Sandeep Gupte, NVIDIA
Wednesday, April 6
What an incredible day! So many conversations, VR demos, sessions, presentations and meetings, my head is spinning. And each one seemed to get better and better. I'm not kidding it was a wonderful day at the GTC.
The day began with a great meeting with NVIDIA where I was able to find out more about the NVIDIA culture ("it all comes from Jen-Hsun Huang"), thoughts about the future of VR and why NVIDIA is "all in" this technology. I also got a chance to get more specific info about the just-announced Iray VR ad Iray VR Lite. Sandeep Gupte was particularly helpful in this discussion and I think him for that.
I got an special invite for three demos at NVIDIA's VR Village, the special pavillion in the Exhibition Hall devoted to providing VR experiences. Thanks to Scott Kilbride, I also got updates on the technology size of the demos.
The Bullet Train VR game was amazing to play. Took a bit to figure the controls, but it was light years (literally) ahead of the Oculus experience last year at Siggraph. Oculus hardware was the best of the ones I tried: easy to wear and with a wider FOV (field of vision).
The HTC VR headset was what I used to demo the new NVIDIA building which is under construction. Created using NVIDIA Iray VR, it was quite an interesting experience and one that stayed with me because of its simplicity and ease. Closed out the demos with the Everest VR experience which was amazing, if too short. The only thing missing was the actual cold.
Despite how good these VR demos were (and there were literally dozens on the exhibition floor), there is something quite clunky and primitive about the hardware. Of course, we are only at the beginnings of real VR and we'll probably look back and laugh at how goofy-looking the hardware is. Imagine putting on a scuba divers mask and then tethering that mast to a high-end computer which generates the VR.
Future VR will only succeed when the wearable hardware becomes wireless and much, much more comfortable to wear.
Tilt Brush from Google.
One particular VR demo will be of interest to Renderosity artists: Google's Tilt Brush. Using HTC Vive hardware, the user is able to paint in 3D space. This sounds cool and it is, but it's amazing when you actually experience. Watching other users before me, I noticed most began painting like they were creating on a 2D screen; until they walked around their painting and realized everything is in 3D. This completely changes the possibilities you have to create.
I loved Google Tilt and am considering getting the HTC Vive for this VR program alone.
Climbing the virtual Mt. Everest
Philip Miller and Iray VR
So grateful that NVIDIA staff were able to hook me up with Philip Miller the General Manager, Advanced Rendering Solutions at NVIDIA and, Iray specialist. In our 20 minutes conversation, we talked a lot about VR and Iray VR. Phil explained to me that NVIDIA is "not looking at Iray VR as a one and done, but something that we will improve on over time". Iray is a physically-based renderer and is perfect for the photo-realism demanded by VR technology. Phil pointed out that "VR will have a wide variety of forms" and NVIDIA wants to be able to enable and accomodate them all."
Iray VR is "really a tech preview presented for the GTC". It is still under development and will be released at some point in the future. Iray VR Lite, however, is a free plug-in and can be used right now. Renderosity Magazine will be covering both of these tools in future reviews and an long interview with Philip Miller.
Note: Iray VR is still being developed. Iray VR Lite, however, will come out in June, 2016.
Sessions and Meetings
I attended two GTC sessions in the afternoon (could have attended a dozen, if I had the time). Both of them were inspiring and lots of fun. "Get into VR with 360 Video", presented by Nicholas Burtey (VideoStitch.com), was a fascinating talk on technology that "stitches" HD video together to stream into live VR. Yes, you heard me, live VR. The company has had great success with their VideoStitcher and are not launching a VR camera (Orah 4i) and kit that lets a user record or stream all kinds of events. Love this product and will be working on an interview soon.
Jules Urbach's predictions for the next 2 years of VR
The last session of the day was the best of the entire GTC. This was "Light Field Rendering and Streaming for VR and AR", but it was much more than that. In just under 30 minutes, Jules Urbach (CEO, Founder of OTOY) covered the current state of VR rendering/streaming both from a software and hardware perspective, the amazing contest he helped created called "Render the Metaverse" where artist were to "Create stunning 360-degree panoramic scenes using OTOY's OctaneVR or OctaneRender software" and then how OTOY and specifically Octane VR and Octane Renderer are developing to solve the VR streaming problems of the future. And this is only a brief outline of what Mr. Urbach covered. Incredibly energetic, this remarkable person, gave me a short interview after his talk which was just brilliant. Look for this in the Wrap Up video coming next week.
I also spent considerable time at the massive NVIDIA booth wandering among the displays and talking to NVIDIA staff. I particularly enjoyed the drone cage sessions and chatting (and getting a great demo) of NVIDIA's Iray. The autonomous cars on display were pretty amazing as well.
I was just able to get this daily journal written up before I jumped in the cab and headed off to the airport to catch my plane home. This year's GTC was even better than last year's. In many ways, I feel more prepared and able to sort my way through the vast amount of information and people at the GTC.
I'll be posting my final thoughts in the GTC Wrap-Up coming in the next day or so. Will also post a Photo-gallery and, of course, a short video.