How NVIDIA is Shaking Up the Graphics Processor Market

eWEEK PROCESSOR ANALYSIS: We are seeing a major change in how we think of PC graphics, and it shouldn’t be a surprise that NVIDIA is leading the way.

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NVIDIA has a history of thinking out of the box. For instance, the company recognized that autonomous driving technology would not only be one of the most powerful future markets but that variants of it could be applied to robotics, drones and ever-broader artificial-intelligence types of projects and products. What they did is look at their GPU capabilities and realize that if you could produce video content, you could also interpret it; instead of video out, you were dealing with video in. It also meant being able to see and interpret what was seen as a critical advantage for anything that was interacting with the real world. 

This week NVIDIA announced its new family of RTX 30 graphics cards, and while the graphics performance is again compelling, it is what they announced about PC users deploying these new cards that caught my attention. 

Let’s talk about the pivot from simply pure performance to creating movies and better Zoom experiences, and how it could redefine the battle for the desktop. 

NVIDIA Omniverse Machinima

I’m still struggling to pronounce Machinima properly, but for people who want to create visual stories, this looks like a game-changing technology. We have folks using gaming tools to recreate classic movies now, but it is a ton of work, making it somewhat impractical for most of us. What NVIDIA Omniverse Machinima promises is a vastly easier process to use third-party asset libraries to create content that is as varied as the creator’s imagination. 

Practical applications would include an alternative to storyboards, where you could use voice actors (or just staff) to provide the vocals and create a relatively accurate demo of what a future TV show or movie might look like. You can use this to refine the script, camera placement and even figure out what your short list of ideal actors would be before you even pitched the project. 

It should dramatically lower the cost of creating a movie or TV show, but it could also be used to enhance streamed video presentations. Many are pre-taped anyway, but they are also often visually rather dull and uninteresting. But what if you could, particularly in a forward-looking pitch, show what the speaker was talking about?

Architects could create more compelling virtual walk-throughs with NPCs (non-player characters) showing traffic patterns, desks in a proposed office building occupied--or how customers would interact with proposed store features. 

Of course, those of us with kids who want to become the next YouTube star could argue more compellingly that they need one of the new NVIDIA cards for this effort--or for more compelling classroom presentations. How about a cinematographic presentation on history? Could be great for extra credit. 

NVIDIA Broadcast

We are all learning that there are issues with doing meetings remotely. Folks who normally would be dressed up for work and are well thought of are now seen with rumpled clothing that looks like they slept in it. Broadcasting from unattractive home locations with all kinds of annoying background sounds is another byproduct of DIY meetings. 

NVIDIA Broadcast uses the power of these new RTX cards to change that experience into something far more compelling. Yes, Zoom and other conferencing apps provide green-screen capability, but it's pretty ugly and you can easily tell the background isn’t real. Broadcast improves the quality sharply, and while you likely know the person on the call isn’t calling from a pristine office or from outer space, the experience is far better. But you can also do things such as eliminate the background noise and place your image in another video stream. For instance, if you are explaining on video about how to fix something, you can place your live image in the same frame as the video, allowing the audience to go to full screen--eliminating the need to take up the screen real estate.

Finally, it has Auto Frame. Now when you are on a video call with a high-end office system the camera will zoom and pan on the speaker. But the camera on your desktop and particularly your laptop doesn’t do that. So you often see someone moving around the frame, or more often, not be centered in the first place and while they may still stay in the picture this movement can be distracting and it looks unprofessional. 

Suddenly your graphics card choice has an impact on how people view you and could have a material impact on your career path as well. That goes way beyond graphics performance only; you can imagine a future release that might realistically dress you in more appropriate clothing, so if you have a 6 a.m. or 7 a.m. meeting in which you aren’t yet out of your PJs, it still looks like you dressed for the event. (I’m kind of waiting for a virtual facial myself, because I am kind of scary-looking first thing in the morning). 

Wrapping Up: The Changing Battlefield

With these changes, NVIDIA has significantly broadened the reasons to buy one of its graphics cards. The increases in performance are certainly compelling, but being able to create your own movies using game assets and vastly improving how you present to the world provides an immeasurable potential benefit to your personal brand. That benefit goes to meetings, podcasts and even family calls, in which you don’t really want anyone commenting on how clean your room is or asking who that other person’s voice off screen is. This is because they won’t hear that voice anymore. 

I think this is only the beginning, because I expect we’ll see other features that are uniquely created or enhanced by GPU technology as AMD and Intel pivot to this new battlefield and add innovation. I think we are seeing a major change in how we think of PC graphics, and it shouldn’t be a surprise that NVIDIA is leading the way. 

Damn, suddenly I really need a new graphics card. 

Rob Enderle is a principal at Enderle Group. He is a nationally recognized analyst and a longtime contributor to QuinStreet publications and Pund-IT.