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Nvidia posted big earnings gains and unveiled its 54-billion transistor A100 artificial intelligence chip in the past couple of weeks. We talked with CEO Jensen Huang about that and his view of the Metaverse, or the universe of virtual worlds that are all interconnected, like in novels such as Snow Crash and Ready Player One. We also asked him if gaming will emerge from the pandemic as the biggest entertainment industry by any measure.
We discussed Nvidia’s best idea for its employees, and whether he is a fan of employees working from home permanently. We talked about the company’s earnings growth for the first fiscal quarter ended April 26 and what he sees ahead for the second half of the year, and whether we’ll see delays in self-driving cars as a result of the pandemic. Here’s an edited transcript of our interview.
GamesBeat: I’m good. I’m growing a beard now.
Jensen Huang: You kind of look like a beard type guy actually. I have a feeling you’re your happiest peach, having the ability to play video games every day.
GamesBeat: That’s true. I’ve been playing a lot of Call of Duty: Warzone. I even won one match. I heard (via Jae Kim) that your [world’s biggest graphics processing unit] GPU card in the oven was a great idea for heating up your oven.
Huang: Ha. Yeah, for preheating the oven.
GamesBeat: Do you think we’re going to have a Metaverse soon, perhaps sooner because of the pandemic? And what form would it take? Like a Fortnite or a collection of games or something else?
Huang: The answer is absolutely yes. I think that it’s time, and it won’t be one. We’re going to have a whole bunch of metaverses. Each one is going to be based on the stories you like. There will be some based on Minecraft, Fortnite, Battlefield, or based on Call of Duty. There are all kinds of styles and personalities. You’ll see one based on The Witcher, one based on Warcraft, and all kinds of genres. There will be hundreds of metaverses. That’s the exciting part of it.
GamesBeat: Do you think that gaming is going to come out of this pandemic as the No. 1 form of entertainment? It’s going to surpass anything that’s a rival?
Huang: Well, the world of entertainment and leisure is gigantic. When you combine it with all of the aspects of entertainment and leisure, going to movies or traveling or going to restaurants, staying in a hotel, skiing, it’s huge. All of the great areas of leisure are all going to be impacted, and there will be change. People will stay at home and more people will be hanging out on metaverses and I think that at-home entertainment will unquestionably be much, much larger in the future and be a larger percentage of the global entertainment and leisure budget. And so I think that’s probably a foregone conclusion at this point. That’s my feeling.
GamesBeat: What do you think of letting employees work out of their homes forever?
Huang: I got no trouble with it. And I think that there’ll be a lot of our employees who will choose to want to work from home many days during the week, and they would still want to go in because maybe they’ll have co-op meetings. Maybe there is some really close collaboration meetings that they’d have to do. Maybe go into a lab or just go hang out, take a day off. Ha, we’ll take a day off of work and go to the office.
You’re going to get all of that kind of stuff. Some of it is going to be for social reasons. Some are for collaboration. Some of it because you have to physically be there for the lab. But I think we’re going to have people who work from home a couple of days a week, three days a week, four days a week. And I’m perfectly comfortable with all that. And I think digital technology is going to continue to advance. There’s no question we’re going to do this. We’re going to do video conferencing and VR. And we’re going to get much better, much better AI-assisted video conferencing systems and augmented reality video conferencing systems. You know, there’s gonna be all kinds of new innovations in this in this area.
GamesBeat: And what do you think the best idea your company has had for helping employees during this time?
Huang: The idea that I love the most is pulling in their raises by six months and putting money in their hands. The number of people around the world that are newly unemployed is almost 200 million, as you know. And many of those people are our family members. They have children. They are our friends and relatives. So providing for additional security for employees, giving them that extra little something so that they can be helpful to other people, is important. They pay their gardeners and babysitters even when they will come to work and giving people a little bit more extra tip. Small acts of kindness can go a long way.
And so I love that the best, which is just getting in a position to take care of our employees. I love that the work that we do is so vital to science. We’re in a lot of ways at the scientific front line. The work that we’re doing to build up the computational defense system for infectious diseases, whether it’s finding the vaccine as fast as possible this time or next time to detect early outbreaks. All of that work is so important to humanity. We’re really proud of the fact that half a million gamers contributed crowdsourced computing. That’s incredible.
I love that the work that we’re doing is making it possible for the workers to roam the hospitals and deliver medicine, and disinfect hallways and rooms. And then all the pieces of work that we’re doing to take the load off of the staff, you know, for AI to keep an eye on patients. And so I think the work that we’re doing is so breakthrough and we’re at the frontline of the scientific front line. I’m super proud of that. It’s really sad to see human suffering all over. But this was also a great time for us to stand up and do our part.
GamesBeat: I noticed there was a delay in progress on self-driving cars and the automotive unit. Do you think it’s like an opportunity to get the technology in better shape because of that delay?
Huang: I think that that the robot taxi market has been delayed a little because they just can’t test on the road. But that’s level two, with autopilot systems. That is still going full out. And I think it’s pretty clear now that because Tesla has found a great business model to monetize its fleet with software. This is an opportunity for the whole automotive industry to change its business model from a traditional fully capitalized, fully monetized opportunity at the point sale, to something different. They can benefit from an installed base that is software-defined, computational, and has the benefits of things like the iPhone. They can benefit from the advances of the smartphone industry, and the car makers are really quite excited about that. And I think that the automotive industry, the car companies that are leaders, are still pushing very fast ahead. But the thing that’s really interesting is that all the fully autonomous robotic taxis are potentially a little delayed, you’re going to see a whole bunch of design for grocery deliveries because of the surge of demand.
But the idea of being able to do some of that in the cities and in urban areas, with a robot, it’s pretty enticing. And so a lot of work is going on in that area. And on large campuses, for example, many large campuses are essentially like a sprawling factory. They currently have people carrying stuff around. They’re going to have robots do that in the future. And so you’re gonna have a lot of different types of last-mile or in-campus autonomous mobile robotics that are going to emerge.
GamesBeat: Do you have any solid information about the second half of the year, like how the economy is reopening? Or is that foggy now?
Huang: Well, I don’t have any greater insight than anybody else. I think we’re fortunate that we are benefiting from powerful economic forces. They’re happening right now, which is cloud computing and AI. And so we’re really fortunate that we’re solidly positioned. But the second thing is that we’re in a brand new multi-year ramp of the A100. And that’s going to give us some amount of immunity. And the third is that it is really rare to have a company that is, on the one hand, doing scientific computing, and working with, with scientists all over the world, in AI and cloud computing and robotics, and also to be benefiting from staying at home because video games are popular, people need to buy cars to do their work, and they need workstations at home to work. So we are diversified and we are working on futuristic things and those futuristic things have been accelerated because of the pandemic. We’re fortunate, but we’ll see how it turns out.
GamesBeat: Thank you very much.
Huang: Great to talk to you. I hope you stay well. Yeah, play lots of games. Stay safe.
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