During Nvidia's Siggraph keynote the tech and GPU innovator dropped a lot of jargon, but I think we just glimpsed the future of the internet – and the metaverse. The likes of Pixar, as well as Adobe, Autodesk, Siemens and, yes, Nvidia, are pioneering new tech that will reshape how we use the internet; what they see as a '3D internet'.
The future laid out by Nvidia and its partners is quite something, and even the most metaverse-averse may want to sit up and take note; I mean, when was the last time Pixar got it wrong? (No one mention Lightyear.) If you're asking, 'what is the metaverse?' then read our guide for the detail, but generally we're looking at a new way of interacting with the internet through VR, 3D spaces and connected worlds.
To make this new 3D internet a real, working thing for everyone, Nvidia is developing its Avatar Cloud Engine (opens in new tab) (ACE), a new tool that enables everyone to build lifelike, 3D 'humans' that can talk and interact with other computers (and you) in the metaverse.
Nvidia sees its vision of advanced avatars created by tech such as ACE as the next step in human and computer interaction. The future of the internet will be a collection of 3D spaces – the metaverse – and Nvidia (as well as the likes of Meta) see us communicating in these new 3D worlds using human-like faces and gestures. Whether we're looking at a hotel to book, buying a car or logging on for work, we could be doing it using ACE-created virtual humans.
The twist comes as not everyone in the metaverse could be a real, actual human. Nvidia says its AI is already on the verge of beating the Turing test – so in the near future you may not be able to discern the difference between a human and a bot. We're already used to 'Live Chat' when on many websites, now it'll have a human face and believable, nuanced responses. I'm getting Holly-Red Dwarf vibes.
Rev Lebaredian, vice president of Omniverse and simulation technology at NVIDIA tells me: "These robots in the virtual world are much easier to create, and they're necessary for us as we create virtual worlds that become indistinguishable from the real one."
This idea of occupying realistic 3D spaces online means devs, and everyone, will need the tools to create their own worlds – imagine the likes of Squarespace for the metaverse, and rather than a 2D website you're building a room, and a world.
To this aim, Nvidia is co-creating a number of tools to help artists work in the metaverse, including – deep breath – Avatar Cloud Engine, DeepSearch AI 3D Search Engine, and NeuralVDB AI. These will be capable of enhancing Pixar's USD (Universal Scene Description) and NVIDIA Omniverse. All these tools are designed to aid the creation of realistic and easily created 3D worlds to exist on the internet. And soon, I expect, we can all access versions of this tech.
"What this means for us all is a future where we all treat 3D art creation like we do 2D image creation now," says Lebaredian, explaining in the future Nvidia predicts we'll reconstruct our world. He adds: "We'll create digital replicas of our spaces, in 3D, just as easily as we take photos and load them to Instagram now."
Lebaredian comments on a demo I'm shown: "Here, we're seeing the person was taking pictures, and then immediately you get this reconstructed object, and it's 3D," he says. "So you can just plug it into whatever graphics software you have. And this is just a matter of seconds, and it looks beautiful."
He continues: “Beyond media and entertainment, USD will give 3D artists, designers, developers and others the ability to work collaboratively across diverse workflows and applications as they build virtual worlds. Working with our community of partners, we’re investing in USD so that it can serve as the foundation for architecture, manufacturing, robotics, engineering and many more domains."
The metaverse proposed by Nvidia means web designers are going to need to think like animators and game developers. If you're skilled in 3D animation and modelling the metaverse could be a good money earner. Get metaverse-ready by taking a look at our feature on the future of animation, where Vancouver Film School’s Colin Giles offers his advice on preparing for the future. Why not pick up the best laptop for animation too, and get set.