Nvidia's annual conference is expected to focus on artificial intelligence, automotive and virtual reality.
Despite attending six conferences in the last four weeks, I am looking forward to one of the most interesting and arguably nerdy conferences of the year – the GPU Technology Conference (GTC) sponsored by Nvidia, April 4-7 at the San Jose Convention Center.
GTC provides a unique mix of scientific, commercial, and academic content, as well as some of intriguing keynotes and demos. Two years ago, Adam Gazzaley from the University of California, San Francisco mapped out the brain of Mickey Hart, the drummer for the Grateful Dead, as he played a virtual drum set using Oculus Rift to demonstrated the potential for using technology to map and treat the human mind. Last year, Google and Baidu highlighted how they were creating neural networks to do deep learning. What all these applications have in common is the need for more compute power, enabled by GPUs.
This year’s conference will feature keynotes from IBM fellow Rob High, the Chief Technology Officer of IBM’s Watson Solutions, Gill Pratt, the CEO of Toyota Research Institute and the former program manager in the Defense Sciences Office at the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. There are also speakers from Baidu, SpaceX, Pixar, Twitter, Swiss national supercomputer center, University of Delaware, and a slew of Nvidia researchers.
The keynote from Nvidia CEO Jen-Hsun Huang will highlight new products and set the tone for focus areas for this year’s conference – artificial intelligence, automotive, and virtual reality.
Huang is expected to launch GPUs based on the company’s Pascal architecture made in a16nm FinFET process. It would be the first Nvidia GPU to use High Bandwidth Memory, stacking DRAMs on a silicon substrate along with the GPU to provide more bandwidth at lower power and a smaller board foot print. The keynote also should provide some insights into Nvidia’s product roadmaps as the company transitions from chip supplier to systems supplier with products like GRID virtualized cloud GPUs and software products.
Of particular interest will be the discussion around the automotive segment which has become an epicenter for new technologies and compute performance. Nvidia offers two platforms here, the Drive CX for infotainment systems and the Drive PX 2 for autonomous command and control systems. Autonomous vehicles require significant computational power to process the surroundings of the car both optically and through other sensors like radar or LIDAR.
Two other events will be co-located with GTC, the OpenPower Summit and the Emerging Company Summit. The OpenPower Summit brings together the ecosystem around the IBM Power architecture as it expands beyond IBM's own internal customer base.
The Emerging Companies Summit hosts small and innovative companies looking for investment. Previous companies included Oculus Rift (acquired by Facebook for $2 billion), Gaikai (acquired by Sony for $380 million), and Natural Motion (acquired by Zynga for $527 million). In addition to the usual start up competition, this year will feature an event focused on China start ups and a VR showcase.
--Kevin Krewell is a senior analyst at Tirias Research. Jim McGregor of Tirias contributed to this article.