NVIDIA’s GPU Technology Conference (GTC) 2015 was all about Deep Learning and cars that are mostly better drivers than we are. But the big secret of GTC is a conference within a conference called ECS or Emerging Companies Summit. This is where we get to meet the companies that are building the solutions of tomorrow using the technology available at the show. These are small firms, often less ten 10 people, bootstrapping themselves into the market by creating amazing things.
This is where the dreamers are, the folks that don’t want to work 9-to-5 for some amorphous company where there are more people telling you what you can’t do than there are helping you to get it done. This is where the innovation is born, sits up, and spits in the face of convention on the way to kicking the butt of larger firms who can’t get out of their own way. This is where the next Sergei Brin, Steve Jobs, Bill Gates or Elon Musk (who actually was on stage at GTC this year) may take their first steps to becoming a technology demi-god.
In short, GTC ECS is where you annually see technology magic and this year didn’t disappoint; one amazing small company after another, and the cream of the crop competes for a no strings attached $100K prize from NVIDIA. Which, given the size of these firms, could just push them over the top. But even the losers win because the audience is filled with cash-rich investors and bankers willing to make that next big technology investment.
Let’s talk about some of the more interesting firms.
Insilico Medical, Inc.: Immortality research
When you get older, your mortality becomes more obvious and one of the firms working to make that inevitable problem go away is Insilico Medical, Inc. This firm is using massive data analysis to look for alternative uses for existing drugs and drug combinations to combat aging. Their products include OncoFinder, GeroScome, and PharmAtlas and all are focused on helping us live longer healthier lives.
Gpudb: Weapons grade analytics
Gpudb is a tiny company bootstrapping itself into the unique area of geospatial intelligence which provides the US DOD with battlefield information critical to the success of a campaign and keeping soldiers safe. What made Gpudb particularly interesting is that its two founders are basically funding the effort through consulting with the DOD on this very topic.
Redshift has come up with an incredibly fast rendering application using NVIDIA GPUs. It apparently not only runs rings around traditional rendering engines that use CPUs but other GPU rendering engines as well. The tool is mostly used by small to mid-sized movie studios which use it to gain a time to market and cost advantages against their massively large competitors. This is one of many tools at ECT that empower little firms to make blockbuster-sized magic.
Artomatix: Turning the individual into a legion
Artomatix was the company that won the $100K and what they did was amazing. They created a system that would automatically generate crowds of virtual characters and are working on a related system that will automatically generate realistic behavior for these virtual crowds. While mostly targeting game development, the Artomatix technology could go a long way to making movies with massive numbers of people far cheaper and far more realistic, as well. This same solution can sample the best artists and create original art consistent, and virtually indistinguishable, to the prior work they have done. This is an amazing technology with huge commercial potential – that could allow a single animator or artist to largely do the work of thousands.
Ersatz: Making machine learning easy
One of the biggest problems with intelligent analytics systems like IBM’s Watson is the time and skill it takes to train them. Well, Ersatz has a tool that makes machine learning easy and it adjusts to provide greater speed to users as they gains core skills. In this way, a novice can start with this system and develop experience and new skill sets and actually working become a true, productive expert.
Wrapping Up: Just a taste of amazing
This is just a small taste of the many amazing companies that were on stage at ECS this year underneath the GTC banner. But perhaps the most powerful moment belonged to a little robot called Jibo that was so engaging and realistic it captured our hearts and brought at least one audience member to tears. At GTC’s Emerging Companies Summit I always see amazing people stretching to do amazing things. Of all the many conferences I go to, this is my favorite, year after year.