Nvidia: 'we want to light every pixel in the world'

CEO talks tablets, car displays and 3D without glasses


The vast majority of us want a tablet for fun not as a work PC, while such touch-based devices don't signal the end of the traditional PC.

That's according to Nvidia's CEO Jen-Hsun Huang who also says the killer apps for parallel computing are already here.

Despite telling the Future in Review conference this week that graphics cards are the future of parallel computing, Jen-Hsun Huang declared the company isn't in the micro-processing business; instead, he says, "we're in the experiential processing business - we're about creating technologies and experiences for the world".

He sees a big future for tablets, but not necessarily at the expense of the PC. "The PC used to be the most important computing device in our lives; going forward," says Huang, "we imagine it will just be one of the most important computing devices in our lives.

"We want to light every single pixel in the world; we don't care if it's a car or in your computer or on the wall."

Because you may not want to slot a GPU into the wall, Nvidia is looking at remote rendering in the cloud; "We use the cloud to render what you see. It could be your desktop or a game or it could be a movie or the most amazingly designed sport car you want to share with people.

"We would do that rendering in the cloud really fast, compress it in a frame time and stream it to you as H.264 and you could enjoy that on a computer, on a phone, on a power wall with a big projector."

The possibilities of Tegra

Your phone could also drive your TV. Today Nvidia's Tegra chip is in the Zune HD (and the Microsoft KIN phones). "When you take the Zune HD and you dock it and that dock is connected to your TV, the user interface changes - it transforms from a touch user interface to a living room remote control user interface.

"Why can't you use that same metaphor when you have a mobile phone – you get to your office and it's wireless so you simply sit down and that mobile phone is a computer. Your experience is now on your screen."

The second generation of Tegra "will show up in all kinds of areas" he says, including tablets. "Imagine a tablet where the processor is in the back of the screen instead of the keyboard. If I put all the electronics behind the touch panel and no more electronics under the keyboard, what is the difference between a PC and a tablet?"

He expects most tablets to have 9-inch or 10-inch screens. "The reason the book form factor has lasted so long it feels natural in our hands," and he sees tablets being used far more for fun than for work.

"The vast majority of us don't do professional computing; the vast majority of us do not use computers as workstations. The leisure content industry – whether that's magazines or newspapers, books, movies, games – is many times the size of the software industry.

"If the tablet is the leisure computing device to enjoy all of this leisure content and the size of the market is related to the content there is to enjoy - then this tablet market is going to be huge."

Doesn't that mean Nvidia will sell fewer graphics cards? "We're going to get to a point now where we're a multi-car family, a multi TV family - we'll be a multi-computer family."

Parallel computing: killer apps

The parallel computing you can do using Nvidia's GPUs could offer a thousand times more capability, Huang says and that's doesn't mean incremental improvements; "that's a complete discontinuity."

What can we do with that power? "The killer apps are starting to show up," he says. "Computer vision has been completely transformed and with computational photography, all of a sudden using image processing techniques, we could compensate or do something with a visual algorithmically.

"Photoshop that refocuses; I didn't like the way that focused, I'm going to refocus my image." The GPU could edit the image in a video conference on the fly so that you make eye contact with the person you're looking at; "we'll take the 2D, warp it into 3D and make it follow you."

Although he claims that wearing glasses to watch 3D is just like wearing headphones to listen to music, they will go away. "3D displays that require no glasses are around the corner; certainly not two years away but no more than five years."

Translucent displays

He also expects translucent displays to enable augmented reality for mass market scenarios. "Augmented reality will likely be Nvidia's greatest contribution to computing. I can't wait until where computing starts and computer graphics starts and the real world ends starts to become indistinguishable."

"Just as touch displays have enabled us to create new type of devices like tablets and smartphones, imagine all the windows in your car are no longer glass but displays; imagine the impact that would have on driving at night or dealing with glare…

"One of the most amazing displays we helped to create is a heads-up display for pilots. When they look down, they don't see their chair - they see below their plane. Why shouldn't you be driving like that?"

Or you could build a GPU-powered mosquito killer; he suggests "a mosquito zapper and in the back is a little GPU running Nvidia's CUDA programming language, doing motion detection and figuring out if it's a male or female mosquito or if it's a mosquito at all and firing a laser at it".

More prosaically, he predicts GPUs will accelerate encryption. "Security is an arms race. If the hackers have better computing technology than the people who are trying to protect us, we're going to have a problem. If GPUs are being used to hack passwords then it probably is a good idea for GPUs to be used to encrypt as well."

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