Jensen Huang toy Jensen Huang toy

Nvidia is betting big on the metaverse. Or should that be the Omniverse?

At its annual GPU Technology Conference, the chip giant fleshed out the future of its Omniverse platform, which lets users develop 3d worlds and collaborate within them. The company is pitching the software as a fundamental building block in the metaverse, the concept of an interconnected virtual realm touted by the likes of Microsoft and Meta (formerly Facebook).

Those companies’ visions of the metaverse have so far emphasized social and workplace interactions, in environments that can be entirely fictional. But Nvidia is interested in creating precise digital replications of real objects and environments, which obey physical laws, for industrial purposes.

For example, Ericsson has worked with the company to model cities in order to work out where to place 5G antennas in real life. Omniverse can also be used to train the AI components of robots and self-driving vehicles, or to simulate and study forest fires.

The underlying tech on which Omniverse develops its virtual worlds is well established in the animation industry: it is Universal Scene Description, a framework created by Pixar to let teams collaborate on creating high-end cg-animated scenes. Nvidia has described it as “the HTML of 3d worlds.”

At the conference, Nvidia also unveiled Omniverse Avatar, which enables virtual characters to interact with humans using speech recognition, synthetic speech, facial tracking, and real-time animation. CEO Jensen Huang demonstrated the tech by presenting an animated toy version of himself, which fielded questions about scientific subjects. (See the demo at the 28-minute mark in the video below.)

Nvidia stressed the potential of these avatars in the field of customer service. It remains to be seen how useful they will be in these roles, especially as they currently suffer from a lag of a few seconds. Still, the fact that yet another major corporation is embracing real-time animation spells big things for our industry.

Omniverse has been available in beta mode since December 2020. The platform’s Enterprise version can now be licensed for $9,000 a year.

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