nVision 08: Jen-Hsun Huang Keynote

nVidia co-founder, President, and CEO Jen-Hsun Huang talks visual computing.

The next demo was less interesting as a UK journalist, primarily because it focussed on American football and NASCAR – neither of which are sports I understand enough to know quite how useful the tech demonstrated around them is. SportVision, a company involved in real-time and post-event digital overlays for sports broadcasting had its CTO, Marv White on stage to talk about their technology. It’s the kind of stuff we probably all take for granted when watching sporting events – things like graphic overlays on turf pitches showing markings, player movements, profiles and such like. More interesting was a fluid-dynamics overlay on NASCAR racing showing which cars were in clean or dirty air – even if you don’t understand what that means, having a visual clue really helps emphasise how these different aspects affect the cars.

After Marv White trundled off, Joshua Edwards stepped up to talk about Photosynth. Just in case Gordon’s news story didn’t explain this clearly enough, Photosynth is seriously cool. The idea is that by getting enough 2D photographs of an area or object you can use software to analyse where parts of those pictures intersect and overlay and then extrapolate a 3D enviromenrt based on that information.

It’s not something that translates well into still images, so I can only suggest you check out the Photosynth site. Seeing what Edwards called the ‘point cloud’ of dots where Phytosynth has identified a feature that is mirrored across multiple images when enough data is fed into the system is really impressive. Even better, the software is smart enough to look on the internet for higher resolution images if you ask it to, to either fill in gaps or simply improve the image quality. Not bad for a free program.

Speaking of 3D, that’s exactly what nVidia had to show us next. After running through a demo called Medusa in 3D – incidentally the same one shown at the launch event for GT200, though not in 3D at that point – Age of Empires 3 then popped up on the screen. The effect was simply stunning. Having played extensively with the Zalman Trimon 3D monitor I was dubious when I saw a pair of 3D glasses on my seat – well done nVidia for proving my cynicism to be misplaced.

Huang really did save the best for last, though, because the final tech demonstration was Jeff Han of PerspectivePixel showing off a true multi-touch screen. If you’ve seen the videos you’ll already know just how impressive it is seeing two people (in this case Han and Huang) both using all five digits of both nads at the same time on the same large screen, sharing data between each other. Han had a picture of Huang twitching in quite unnatural ways, animated through the multi-touch interface. ‘Cool’ really is the only applicable word for this technology. I’ll be pushing for some hands on time tomorrow, if I can get it!

That was it for technology, but Huang still had one more guest to invite on stage: Battlestar Galactica actress Tricia Helfer to talk about visual computing in BG. Unsurprisingly, she didn’t really have much to say, except that talking to tennis balls, substituting for a not-yet-rendered CGI Cylon and admitting that she has a “control problem”.

All in all an interesting keynote. The focus very much on visual computing as a field than nVidia’s role or position in that market. Also a sign of interesting things to see on the show floor later on.

That’s it for now, but check back later as I tour the convention centre – I can promise there’s some very interesting stuff to see

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