Tuesday, March 19, 2019
On my second day at the NVIDIA GTC, I spent most of the day in conversation with fellow members of the press and attending presentations/panels. I also explored the exhibition hall, browsed in the bookstore and spent time researching topics that came up during the day. It was a mentally exhausting day, but one that was also inspiring.
Presentations and Panels
The day began with a presentation by SAS CEO/CTO Oliver Schabenberger titled “Artificial Intelligence: Technology’s Inevitable Consequence”. I had no idea that this outstanding presentation would set the tone for the entire day. Schabenberger is a focused, precise speaker who obviously has thought long and hard about business and artificial intelligence. His main point was that business needs to understand what AI is and isn’t. He said that we are in the midst of the hype-cycle of AI (see the Gartner Hype Cycle chart) and that much of the interest in AI is for narrow, carefully defined data-focused tasks. He is advising companies interested in AI to look at the problem they want to address and then determine how AI can benefit them realistically.
Next, I hustled over to the convention center to watch Vicki Dobbs Bech’s presentation “The Journey to Immersive Storytelling”. Vicki has worked with ILMxLab for several years and has personally helped developed new ways of utilizing graphics technology to tell stories in VR, AR, and immersive entertainment. I liked her comment that the Lab ways attempting to move from storytelling to storyliving. Of course, ILM/Lucasfilm is famous for the Star Wars series and Vicki presented the many ways her Lab is trying to create entertainments that put people inside of the story of the Star Wars universe. There was lots of great video and talk of ILM projects including the academy-award winning Carne Y Arena (Flesh and Sand), a virtual experience that put the viewer in the situation of an immigrant crossing the border. This was the first virtual production accepted at the Cannes Film Festival.
After Ms. Dobb’s enjoyable presentation, I gathered with members of the press for a special tour of the exhibition hall. Greg Estes, an NVIDIA rep, took us through a quick tour of highlights which included visiting several booths where we learned a bit about how each company is developing graphics technology, deep learning, and artificial intelligence in their own unique ways. Google cloud, Microsoft Azure, Dell data workstations and autonomous cars are only a few of the great short presentations we listened to. Actually seeing the half-dozen autonomous cars and seeing their hardware was a real treat. I was also very impressed with the NVIDIA Inception Start Up Pavillion. This is an are where dozens of indie start-up companies had booths to share their unique visions and ideas for graphics technology.
Robotics was also on display at the Exhibition Hall. It’s one thing to read about advanced robotics, but it’s quite another thing to actually see them in operation and talk to the developers were with right there with their projects. I was particularly impressed with Serve, a delivery robot from Postmates. Not only was the technology fascinating, but I could imagine getting delivery from this cute robot.
Holographs and “I am AI” Panel
After a working lunch (thank you, NVIDIA), I spent time listening to the amazingly energetic Jules Urbach, the CEO of OTOY, a company that develops the Octane renderer and many other graphics related technologies. Jules stated that from the founding of the company he wanted to create the Star Trek holodeck. His talk was a combination of the history of OTOY and how improved graphics technology, AI and Deep Learning will impact the future of VFX, real-time rendering in games and scanning. NVIDIA’S RTX technology combined with AI has made real-time ray-tracing possible and the impact has already been enormous. Jules had updates on the Octane Renderer, he ORC render cloud, and more. Check the main OTOY website for more info.
One of the most interesting panels of the day was “I am AI: How Humans and AI are Working Together”. This was by far the most practical and down to earth presentation of the use of AI and Deep Learning on very specific types of businesses. Hosted by Noah Kravitz (creator of a very popular AI podcast) the panel featured Christian Thurow (Air Traffic Control), Ron Alfa(developing new drugs to cure disease), and Juan Bravo (robots that pick strawberries). Noah’s questions were excellent and the audience got a great overview of the problems and solutions that each panelist faced in starting their companies, instituting AI and Deep Learning, and in the success of that technology. I was struck by how creative each panelist had to be to even see a problem that could be solved by AI. This was a very inspiring panel that led me to a lot of interesting research I hope to share with you in the future.
You can view a very similar presentation Adrian gave for Google Cloud recently on this subject.
Last Thoughts for Tuesday
Part of my day was spent wandering the NVIDIA Exhibition Hall, the Poster presentations, the bookstore and speaking with other graphics reporters. I was impressed with many of the posters NVIDIA chose to present. Keep in mind these are displays of technology ideas that are summarized on posters which are then placed on display at the conference. Many of the posters were highly technical (as they should be) but I found it fascinating to look at the various ideas being presented on AI, Deep Learning and Graphics Technology.
I found a great book at the conference bookstore called "Artifictional Intelligence" by Harry Collins. The idea of the book is to debate the growth of AI, our perceptions of AI and to encourage us to not surrender to Computers in the future. While most members attending the GTC conference might dispute the “surrender idea”, I’m glad that there is an author who is willing to challenge our assumptions. I devoured the first chapter later in the evening and highly recommend the book.
I also very much recommend NVIDIA’S YouTube channel for updated videos on the conference. My experience at the GTC is only a very small piece of a much larger conference agenda.