Nvidia Program Offers Technologies, Support to AI Startups

The Inception Program is designed to give entrepreneurs in the artificial intelligence field access to Nvidia's products and expertise.

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Nvidia officials are hoping to accelerate the development of artificial intelligence through a new program designed to give startups in the space access to the chip maker's deep learning technologies and expertise.

The Nvidia Inception Program, announced June 8, is aimed at entrepreneurs who are starting new companies in the field of artificial intelligence (AI), a fast-growing emerging market that Nvidia officials have targeted as a key one for the company. Deep learning technologies—which enable systems to learn through experience in ways similar to humans—is a key driver of AI development and another key market for Nvidia.

"Startups worldwide are taking advantage of deep learning for its superhuman speed and accuracy in applications like radiology, fraud detection and self-driving cars," Kimberly Powell, senior director of industry business development at Nvidia, said in a statement. "We're committed to helping the world's most innovative companies break new ground with AI and revolutionize every industry."

Through the Inception Program, startups can get access to the latest deep-learning technology and GPU hardware from Nvidia, including the company's Deep Learning SDK (software development kit), the DIGITS deep learning GPU training system and the GPU Inference Engine. The hardware will be available via discounts, grants or remote access, according to the Inception Program page.

The entrepreneurs also will have access to Nvidia's deep-learning experts and engineering team; the GPU vendor's global network of customers, partners and suppliers; and its marketing network. They also can get online and in-person technical training through Nvidia's Deep Learning Institute and possibly funding through the company's GPU Ventures Program.

In addition, the program will open up more avenues for Nvidia's GPU products and deep learning technologies. CEO Jen-Hsun Huang has pushed the company hard into the deep learning and AI fields, seeing significant growth areas for Nvidia's GPUs given the demand for parallel processing capabilities. At Nvidia's GPU Technology Conference (GTC) 2016 show in March, Huang said that "our company has gone all-on in deep learning," adding that AI represents "a brand new computing model. … Our strategy is to accelerate deep learning everywhere."

At the GTC event, Nvidia officials unveiled the DGX-1, which they called the world's first supercomputer for deep learning and AI. It combines eight of the company's new powerful Tesla P100 GPUs with two Intel Xeon server chips to drive 170 teraflops of performance in a 3U (5.25-inch) form factor and offers 12 times the performance of the system Nvidia introduced at last year's show. It will be priced at $129,000 and carry a 3,500-watt power budget, all while offering the same performance as 250 CPU-based servers.

Such fully integrated platforms like the DGX-1 will bring deep learning and AI technologies to a broader range of customers, the CEO said, adding that "deep learning has been democratized."

Deep learning uses layers of nodes that process data coming into the system, with the idea that as the data passes through each node, the system gets closer to the correct result to whatever question is being asked. These neural networks also are designed to enable artificial intelligence so the system can learn from its experience.