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Nvidia announced today that it has kicked off the entries for its 2016 Early Stage Challenge, which offers a $100,000 prize for the best startups using graphics processing units (GPUs).

Nvidia is the world’s largest standalone maker of GPUs, and it uses the contest to filter the best new startups in its ecosystem. The graphics chip maker has opened up the applications and will select a dozen competitors to compete on stage at its Emerging Companies Summit in 2016.

CEOs will get four minutes to pitch their company to our expert panel, and another four minutes to answer questions. After all of them have presented, the panel and audience choose a winner, who gets a check. It will take place at the annual GPU Technology Conference on April 6, 2016, in San Jose. Last year, GTC drew some 4,000 attendees from 40-plus countries.

Last year, the winner was Artomatix, a deep learning artificial intelligence startup with tools for game and entertainment companies.

Eric Risser, the chief technology officer of Artomatix, made a presentation on stage and accepted the award from Jeff Herbst, the vice president of business development at Nvidia. Artomatix makes life easier on video game artists by automating the process of creating art for massive virtual environments.

If, for instance, a game needs a lot of extras milling about in a train station or a stadium, that usually requires the work of many artists who are in charge of creating secondary for a game. But Artomatix can automate that process by coming up with variations on a theme and reproducing them in the style of the artist, Risser said.

Eric Risser of Artomatix.

The task requires a lot of “deep learning,” or the capability to recognize images, understand what they are, and then produce variations on them. Game companies that use Artomatix could automate the drudgery for artists. That lets them get by with fewer artists, or build much bigger worlds than they otherwise could. The human artists, meanwhile, could focus on more interesting tasks like creating the primary art of main characters and other vital images for a game.

Artomatix is based in Dublin, Ireland, and it has raised $250,000 to date. It was founded a year ago. In a demo, Artomatix showed how it could take the art of Van Gogh’s The Starry Night painting and merge it with an image of the Golden Gate Bridge, in an automated fashion.


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