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You could say that Nvidia is at its high-water mark. The company’s stock price has tripled in the past year. It has transformed itself from a maker of graphics chips to an artificial intelligence company. And CEO Jen-Hsun Huang gave the opening keynote speech at CES 2017, the big tech trade show in Las Vegas this week.
After that keynote, Huang sat down with a small group of press and answered questions for an hour. Huang talked about how the serendipitous and destined combination of programmable graphics processing units (GPUs) and deep learning neural networks enabled breakthroughs in AI that are leading to further breakthroughs in autonomous cars and voice controls. He also dove deep into PC gaming, virtual reality, Nvidia’s partnership with Nintendo on the Switch console, self-driving car partnerships with Mercedes-Benz and Audi, and Shield TV.
I participated in the group Q&A with Huang. Here’s an edited transcript of the press event.
Jen-Hsun Huang: We had a keynote yesterday, and I talked about three things. The first thing I talked about is that PC gaming and GeForce are thriving. It’s thriving for a lot of reasons. PC gaming is the only gaming platform that’s global. It’s global by design. It’s global by economics. It’s global because it’s based on the PC. It’s based on an essential tool for humanity. People want to buy a lot of things, but people need to buy a PC.
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I also made the point that almost every human is a gamer. I believe that my parents’ generation, none of them were gamers, but my children’s children’s generation, everyone will be a gamer. And yet there are only several hundred million gamers in the world today, which suggests that gaming still has the opportunity to grow by a factor of 10. Gaming is thriving. It’s a global business. Everyone is going to be a gamer.
Production value of games is increasing so fast. In the last 10 years, in order to play a Call of Duty game at a reasonable level—today, compared to five years ago, you need 10 times the computational horsepower. All of a sudden 4K is here. HDR is here. VR is here. The technology that drives the industry, the production value, is increasing incredibly fast.
Gaming is driven no longer just by the fact that it’s fun to play. Gaming is now a sport. You guys have known this for a while. You also know that the League of Legends finals was viewed by more people than the NBA finals. I made the claim that, long term—who knows how long the long term is, but esports could be the world’s largest gaming genre. It could be bigger than soccer, bigger than football, bigger than…swimming, I don’t know. [laughter] It could be quite large. It’s already incredibly large. 100 million mobile gamers. 325 million people watching other people play.
Gaming is also social. It’s a way of hanging out. Don’t forget that when three of your friends are gamers, when they’re playing Overwatch and you’re not, it’s hard to hang out with them. It’s no different from a game of pickup basketball or anything else that we do. It’s a social network. The more of your friends are gamers, the more gamers you get to know. It’s a positive feedback system.
We also have seen, in just the last few years—it’s Twitch that started it, but it’s not only Twitch. One of the fastest-growing segments of YouTube is video game programming. You want to learn how to get to the next level. You want to see somebody’s spectacular feat. You maybe have used video games as a platform for art. You do something really incredible, like capture a short story. Video games, as a way to share your victories, share your moments, share your art—it’s become a really fast-growing product.
All of these factors, these dynamics, are best on PC. That’s the reason why the PC industry has grown, why the PC gaming market has grown so fast, and it’s now the largest gaming platform. We see this dynamic continuing. We’re quite excited about it.
I talked about AI in the home. Ultimately the home needs a home computer. Your home computer is no longer your PC. Your personal computer belongs to you. Everybody has their own personal computer. There’s no concept of a “home computer” anymore. But I believe there needs to be a home computer. It’s likely that your home computer is your entertainment computer. We’ve always felt that Shield is an entertainment computer. It brings a modern way of enjoying content to the home. But over time it becomes more and more powerful. Eventually it controls and connects to the whole house.
I talked about autonomous driving. We gave an update on our Autopilot platform – our processor, our operating system, all the necessary AIs. There’s a misconception that maybe there’s one AI causing the car to drive, but it’s not like that. AI, in the future, is going to be a whole lot of AIs. It’s a new way of developing software. Deep learning is a new way of developing software. A whole lot of software modules and capabilities are inside the car, and they’re all going to be infused with AI.
You still have to break down the functionality of the car. You still have to break down the computing platform into its modular parts and develop it in pieces. But we expect there will be a lot of different AIs. I talked about perception AIs. I talked about driving AIs. I talked about reasoning AIs – where am I? where is everyone else? – and I made a prediction about all that.
I also said that the AI is no longer going to be just about driving you on autopilot. Even when it’s not driving you, it’ll be looking out for you. You’ll have a copilot. At all times, you’ll have a copilot fully engaged, fully alert, looking at your surroundings. It has surround perception at all times. Not only that, it’s also connected to its perception of what you’re doing. If there are things happening outside the car that are inconsistent with your attention level, it’ll remind you of that. Even when it’s not confident to drive, it should be fully confident to look out for you. There’s always going to be a copilot AI running.
I talked about these three basic ideas. Gaming. GeForce is thriving. In fact—is it okay if I took one of our lines from the blog and shared it? That’s okay, right? I just don’t know what press etiquette is. [laughter]
Question: Is there such a thing?
Huang: I can say whatever I want, right? There’s a piece of news—GeForce is really thriving. In fact, at CES, there are going to be 30 new gaming laptops launching this year. That’s a lot. 30 new GeForce gaming laptops. Every single OEM in the world. Powered by our brand new GPU, GeForce 1050TI. These laptops are thin. They’re fast. You get essentially something that’s better than a PlayStation 4 in a tiny laptop computer. Your little thin, beautiful laptop gives you the ability to play PS4-quality games. Everything just works.
We’re also announcing, too, amazing new gaming monitors. The world’s first 4K G-sync HDR models. If you haven’t had a chance to see it, you must see it. No lag. No tear. Full HDR vibrancy, 4K monitors. One is from ASUS and one is from Acer. Those two monitors are going to be fantastic gaming monitors.
GeForce is vibrant. We’ll bring AI to the house, and we’ll turn your car into an AI. It’s either going to be driving you or looking out for you. All right, that’s it.