NVIDIA CEO Jen-Hsun Huang delivered his keynote speech at NVISION 2008 today. The keynote was all about the GPU. Pointed out in the keynote was exactly how far the GPU has come since the first one hit market in 1987.
In the beginning, the GPU was a fixed-function device and now an NVIDIA GPU can deliver almost a teraflop of processing power. Huang noted in his address that NVIDIA has no intention for the GPU to replace the CPU. Rather, the GPU will complement the CPU.
News.com quotes Huang saying, "It is not about replacing the CPU at all. We don't believe that replacing the CPU is a good strategy. Supplementing the CPU is far better."
One impressive figure that Huang tossed out during his keynote had to do with the Folding@home program. Huang says that in total there are 2.6 million PCs running the folding at home application providing 288 teraflops of processing power. NVIDIA's CUDA based version of Folding@home is running currently on 24,000 GPUs -- only 1% of the total processors available with the application.
That 1% of GPUs running the application provides 1.4 petaflops of performance amounting to five times the processing power of all CPUs available to the project says Huang. Huang also shared the stage with Peter Stevenson of Realtime Technologies reports News.com. Realtime Technologies demonstrated real-time ray tracing that can render 3D graphics with very complex light interactions -- presumably on NVIDIA GPUs.
After the ray tracing demo, a demo from Microsoft showed off its new Photosynth application. DailyTech first reported on Photosynth in 2006. Huang also showed a 3D stereoscopic graphics demonstration using the NVIDIA Medusa demo and Age of Empires. Imagine 3D gaming on your PC with the same quality as 3D films in movie theaters like Beowulf. This is some of the most exciting work NVIDIA is doing right now.
Huang also had Jeff Han on stage and the pair demoed a huge multi-touch user interface on a 100-inch screen according to AnandTech. The pair was able to simultaneously operate the screen and bring up applications and information with hand gestures. According to Han, the mouse has become the bottle neck for user input. Future OS' may take advantage of multi-touch user interfaces rendered on the GPU like Windows Vista's Aero theme.
After that demo, Huang shared the stage with Trisha Helfer from “Battlestar Galactica”. Apparently, no one warned her about the green NVIDIA theme -- she wore bright red. Huang and Helfer talked about acting with computer generated characters on the show and what challenges that presents for actors.
The tie in there -- other than simply having a sexy actress for the geeks to ogle -- is that the computer-generated graphics for TV and movies are often rendered on NVIDIA hardware. Huang asked Helfer what she thought the future of computer graphics meant for actors. According to AnandTech Helfer said, "The idea that you're just being created and...your soul, what you're putting into the character isn't coming out. It's a scary thought, it's a threatening thought. The advantages and uses of it are amazing and we'll have to get used to it."