Despite the continuing COVID pandemic, the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) is taking place in Las Vegas this week, returning to a live format after a year off. The live presentation is somewhat ironic in an event where virtual reality, the metaverse, autonomous vehicles, and non-fungible tokens (NFTs) are taking center stage.
Like it or not, the digitization of all things physical is coming fast. Although many of the CES themes may seem unrelated, there is one underlying technology – and that’s artificial intelligence.
We are rapidly moving into a world where AI is infused in almost every aspect of our lives – from the games we play, to home electronics, to the cars we drive, and beyond. The technology that powers AI is the graphics processing unit, also known as a GPU, for which NVIDIA is far and away the market leader and de facto standard. At CES, the company announced a bevy of new products to bring more AI to more places. Below are what I believe were some of the more interesting announcements:
NVIDIA Omniverse is now free
Omniverse is NVIDIA’s AI-powered virtual collaboration and simulation platform. This product enables developers to create photo-realistic, accurate simulations that obey all the laws of physics. NVIDIA uses Omniverse to run simulations for self-driving cars, robots, and other tasks that can be time-consuming and difficult to replicate. For example, training a robot to walk requires several different scenarios, such as up hills, down slopes, gravel roads, stairs, etc. It could take months to do this in the physical world; Omniverse can load the data quickly into the robot, enabling it to walk immediately.
Omniverse has had several new features and tools added to it, and it’s been made generally available to GeForce Studio creators with RTX GPUs. NVIDIA has designed Omniverse to be the foundation that connects virtual worlds. In its CES keynote, NVIDIA announced the following updates:
Omniverse Nucleus Cloud enables “one-click-to-collaborate” simple sharing of large Omniverse 3D scenes, meaning artists can collaborate from across the room or the globe without transferring massive datasets.
Support for the Omniverse ecosystem provided by 3D marketplaces and digital asset libraries provides creators an easier way to build scenes. TurboSquid by Shutterstock, CGTrader, Sketchfab, and Twinbru have released thousands of Omniverse-ready assets for creators, all based on Universal Scene Description (USD) format and are found directly in the Omniverse Launcher. Reallusion’s ActorCore, Daz3D, and e-on software’s PlantCatalog will soon release their own Omniverse-ready assets.
Omniverse Machinima for RTX creators now includes new, free characters, objects, and environments from game titles that include Mechwarrior 5 and Shadow Warrior 3, plus Mount & Blade II: Bannerlord and Squad assets in the Machinima library. Creators can remix and recreate their own game cinematics with these assets by dragging and dropping them into their scenes.
Omniverse Audio2Face, an AI-enabled app that instantly animates a 3D face with only an audio track, now offers blendshape support and direct export to Epic’s MetaHuman.
Expanded partnerships with AT&T, Samsung
Mobile gaming has always been the ugly stepchild of the gaming industry because wireless speeds could not keep up with gaming needs. Enter 5G as a solution to that problem. AT&T and NVIDA are partnering to provide customers an optimized experience by giving AT&T customers with 5G devices a six-month GeForce NOW Priority Membership at no charge.
Samsung will make NVIDIA’s cloud gaming service available on its smart TVs through the Samsung Gaming Hub later this year. This follows the November announcement in which LG previewed a beta version of the service on its 2021 WebOS smart TVs.
These partnerships are enabling GeForce now into living rooms and mobile devices. As for games, GeForce NOW continues to expand support for the Electronic Arts catalog, adding Battlefield 4 and Battlefield 5 to its online library of more than 1,100 PC games.
Autonomous car updates
This is an area that NVIDIA has been a leader in since the concept of self-driving cars came into play. At CES NVIDIA announced DRIVE Hyperion 8, which brings a number of new capabilities, such as redundant NVIDIA DRIVE Orin systems-on-a-chip, 12 surround cameras, nine radars, 12 ultrasonics, one forward-facing lidar, and three interior cameras. The system is designed to be functionally safe as if one computer or sensor fails, there are backups available.
Electronic vehicle partners include Volvo-backed Polestar and EV companies in China, such as NIO, Xpeng, Li Auto, R Auto, and IM Motors. NVIDIA also has several Robotaxi partners such as Cruise, Zoox, and DiDi and trucking services like Volvo, Navistar, and Plus, all of which are using DRIVE Hyperion. Autonomous trucking company TuSimple announced at CES that it will build its new platform on NVIDIA DRIVE Orin. It’s working with delivery companies such as UPS, Navistar, and Penske, and its technology has already improved arrival times for long-haul routes of the U.S. Postal Service.
Much has been made of the current truck driver shortage causing much of the supply chain delays on food, consumer goods, and tech equipment. Autonomous trucking can alleviate much of the problem and get products moving again.