Nvidia's 2016 conference shows the serious side of the GPU

nvidia gtc wrap up nvidiagtc1
If there was one thing missing from 2016’s GPU technology conference, it was gaming. While GeForce owners are lamenting the lack of new Pascal-based GTX cards, a developer community is abuzz at the prospects of new, powerful hardware, and Nvidia’s expanded software offerings.

The face of computing is changing, and a lot of it has to do with GPUs. Developers are finding new and exciting ways to leverage these chips’ immense and unique power, and it has the community spilling over with ideas, innovations, and new tech.

Deep learning

Deep learning and cognitive computing are definitely the hot topics at GTC this time around. Their presence has been looming the past couple of years, but more as a proof of concept. This year, researchers were ready to show off the work these systems have been doing.

One of the most striking demos from Facebook’s Artificial Intelligence Research lab made sure everyone knows just how powerful cognitive computing has come. When fed data sets, the algorithms are able to turn them into useful insight, and even recreate the important pieces of information as it identifies them.

But the crucial part of the equation comes in when we discuss how to teach these systems what to look for. Early attempts focused on telling a machine what to look for and what its goals are, but now the conversation revolves around how these machines can teach themselves.


An untrained deep learning system is simply set loose on a humongous amount of data, and then researchers watch to see what it looks for. Whether that’s a swath of renaissance paintings, or videos of people engaged in a variety of sports and games, we’re starting to let the computer decide which factors are important, and that’s leading to greater accuracy and more versatile algorithms.

It’s also leading to systems that can complete more and more advanced tasks, and at rates we never could have imagined before we let the machines take over.

Self-driving cars

Strangely, Nvidia has positioned itself as a leading figure in the race to create self-driving cars. As you might imagine, GPUs are well suited for this kind of work, which requires juggling dozens of elements, and doing so quickly. Nvidia’s hardware is perfect for heavily realized workloads, and the company is taking full advantage of its advantageous position in the marketplace, as well as the connections its built over the years, to build a platform for self-driving cars that will power the fully autonomous RoboRace.

Nvidia even showed off its own self-driving car concept, lovingly known as BB8. The demonstration video showed a car that, at first, struggled to even stay on the road. It ran over cones, drove into the dirt, and didn’t stop when it should’ve. With just a few months of training and learning, the car drove perfectly, able to switch between driving surfaces smoothly, and adjust to unusual situations, like roads with no central divider.

At the heart of that car is Nvidia’s Drive PX2 chip. Specifically designed for self-driving cars, the chip supports up to 12 high-definition cameras, and leverages Nvidia’s GPU tech for instant responsiveness and sensor management.

Virtual reality for work and play

That’s not to say the GPU community is all work and no play, and virtual reality is one of the key areas where the gaming world finds its way back in. That’s not the sole focus of VR anymore, though. From architecture to car design, there are many way to make virtual reality a tool instead of a toy.

IRay, in particular, is a massive step forward for VR, as it brings Nvidia’s highly detailed and accurate lighting into the virtual realm. IRay is already used for architectural projects and automotive designs, where light refraction doesn’t just have to look nice, it has to be pixel perfect.

Nvidia’s work is also leading to new hardware in other areas. During a presentation on computational displays, Nvidia vice president of graphics research David Luebke showed off a variety of new display types that might make a good fit for future VR and AR displays.

Among them were see-through displays with precision pinholes, LED projectors, and sets of micro-lenses. These new display technologies provide advanced optical features, like highly adjustable focal points, see-through capabilities, and sky-high refresh rates. One of the displays even allows developers to program eyeglass prescriptions into the lenses themselves.

Not so far away

We’ve come a long way on these advanced computing topics in just a few years, but most researchers agree that we’re going to move a lot faster in the next few. These innovations are heralding the dawn of the age of AI, and you can expect to see a lot of the currently in development software enhance everything from online shopping to social media, and yes, even gaming.

And the hardware is starting to get there, too. Nvidia showed off high-end Tesla offerings that, while insanely expensive and power hungry, have made leaps and bounds in terms of efficiency over the last generation of hardware.

With all of this new tech, we’re starting to move away from asking how to reach tech milestones, and starting to ask — when?


Midrange phones can’t do A.I., but MediaTek’s P90 chip aims to change that

MediaTek has announced the Helio P90 mobile processor, which it says will bring the best A.I. features we see on high-end smartphones, to the mid-range. We spoke to the company about the chip.

Does Qualcomm's latest laptop processor hold up against Intel's Core i5?

Qualcomm has been nipping at Intel's mobile CPU heels for years and now it might finally have overtaken it. To find out whether it's new SoC can hold its own in mid-range computing, we pitted the Snapdragon 8cx vs. Core i5.

Allegro.ai is helping Hyundai mine the artificial intelligence gold rush

In November 2018, Hyundai invested in a startup named Allegro.ai. We talked to the company's founder to learn more about what that means for consumers in the not-too-distant futures.
Product Review

How does the sleek MateBook X Pro hold up to the modern day competition?

Huawei impressed us with the MateBook X, a solid competitor to the 12-inch MacBook that beat Apple at its own game. Now, Huawei is taking a shot at premium 14-inchers with the MateBook X Pro, but it’s not without oddities – like a…

Our favorite Chrome themes add some much-needed pizzazz to your boring browser

Sometimes you just want Chrome to show a little personality and ditch the grayscale for something a little more lively. Lucky for you, we've sorted through the Chrome Web Store to find best Chrome themes available.

Don't keep typing the same thing -- learn to copy and paste with these shortcuts!

Looking for useful Windows keyboard shortcuts? The most common are the cut, copy, paste and undo shortcuts compatible with all kinds of tasks. They can save you an awful lot of time if you learn how to use them.

Latest Facebook bug exposed up to 6.8 million users’ private photos

An API bug recently left an impact on Facebook users. Though the issue has since been fixed, some of the apps on the platform had a wrongful access to consumers photos for 12 days between September 13 and September 25. 

You can now get a Surface Laptop 2 for $800 at the Microsoft Store

Along with deals on other variants, starting configurations of Microsoft's Surface Laptop 2 are now going for $800 online at its retail store, cutting $200 from its usual $1,000 starting price. 

Need a monitor for professional photo-editing? These are the very best

Looking for the best monitor for photo editing? You'll need to factor in brightness, color accuracy, color gamut support and more. Fortunately, we've rounded up the best ones for you, to help you make an educated purchase.

HDR monitors are beginning to have an impact. Here are the best you can buy

HDR isn't the most common of PC monitor features and is often charged at a premium, but the list of available options is growing. These are the best HDR monitors you can buy right now.

You’ll soon be able to scribble all over PDFs on your Chromebook

Chrome OS users may soon be able to doodle all over their PDF documents with the possible addition of a new feature in Chrome OS' PDF viewer. The annotation feature is expected to allow users to hand draw or write over their documents.
Virtual Reality

Oculus Rift vs. HTC Vive: Prices drop, but our favorite stays the same

The Oculus Rift and HTC Vive are the two big names in the virtual reality arena, but most people can only afford one. Our comparison tells you which is best when you pit the Oculus Rift vs. HTC Vive.

Microsoft’s Windows 95 throwback was just an ugly sweater giveaway

Microsoft's "softwear" announcement wasn't what we had hoped for. Thursday's announcement was not the new line of wearable tech or SkiFree monster sweater we wished for. But it did deliver the 90s nostalgia we wanted.
Home Theater

Confused about LED vs. LCD TVs? Here's everything you need to know

Our LED vs. LCD TV buying guide explains why these two common types of displays are fundamentally connected, how they differ, what to look for in buying an LED TV, and what's on the horizon for TVs.