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The metaverse skyrocketed into our collective consciousness during the height of the pandemic, when people yearned for better ways to connect with each other than video calls. The game’s strong growth during the pandemic has also pushed it forward. But the Metaverse has become so trendy that it’s now facing a backlash, and people aren’t talking about it as much anymore.
Yet the technologies that will propel the metaverse are advancing rapidly. One such technology is generative AI, which uses deep learning neural networks to produce creative concept art and other ideas based on simple text prompts.
Jensen Huang, CEO of AI and graphics chip maker Nvidia, believes that generative AI will be transformational and is just getting started. One of its biggest applications could be with the metaverse, which has huge content demands as developers need to populate virtual worlds with 3D assets. And many companies like Stable Diffusion, Promethean AI, and Ludo AI use these technologies to automatically generate artwork and other assets for gaming and metaverse apps. Nvidia has its own research on this front.
Many metaverse companies are hoping that generative AI will provide them with the resources to help them build their world. Huang thinks you’ll see progress as you enter more and more prompts — such as text to flesh out a concept — and the concept imagery gets better and better. And he also thinks that when it becomes reusable in different Omniverse applications, it will be clear that generative AI has reached a more mature stage.
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I recently caught up with Huang for a short interview about the metaverse and games. Our GamesBeat Summit: Into the Metaverse 3 event will take place from February 1-2.
Here is an edited transcript of our interview.
GamesBeat: I wonder if there are people losing their enthusiasm for the metaverse now. This was the news last year. Maybe they think it’s an idea that could die during a recession. How about that?
Jensen Huang: First, the definition of the “metaverse”, in terms of the virtual environment in which we develop artificial intelligence software. I believe that Omniverse, metaverse, is essential to this journey. You can’t develop software that you can’t test. You cannot deploy software that you cannot test. With the world that wants to become software-defined, where there’s a software-defined car or a software-defined lawnmower or software-defined agricultural equipment or a software-defined pick-and-place or a software-defined warehouse , we cannot move to this new world without a virtual environment to simulate and test this software. This is what Omniverse is designed for in the first place. To me, it makes sense that the next era of AI will require Omniverse, or what some call the Industrial Metaverse.
On the day that it is a commercial product – for example, the marketing of household appliances – the possibility of having a digital version of this product that you can place virtually in the environment in which you find yourself could be very useful for shopping. I think in the long run the idea of looking at a 2D image for shopping, digital shopping, versus seeing a 3D object in its environment — I think it’s very clear that the metaverse will be used to trade. Whether the metaverse will be used for videoconferencing – which I think it will be – and other applications is only a matter of time. The examples I gave will absolutely happen.
GamesBeat: In the age of generative AI, how do you think this will help the metaverse happen?
Houang: Without generative AI, how could consumers create virtual worlds without great effort? You can now create virtual 3D worlds, which is just around the corner. You can see it about to happen. We can now do generative AI for images. We can do this for videos. At the rate it moves, you will do it for entire villages; 3D villages and landscapes and cities etc. You will be able to assemble an example image and generate a whole 3D world. This will activate the metaverse like you can’t believe. You need it. Absolutely.
This is exactly why I always say, when we talk about the metaverse, when we talk about the Omniverse, that AI and the Omniverse go hand in hand. For me it’s the same thing.
Beating games: A forecast from Newzoo came out that said gaming could shrink as an industry for the first time in over a decade, year on year. What do you think of that? Is this a concern, or do you see this as something that would be a correction before we resume growing games?
Houang: In fact, if you go back, you’ll notice that PC gaming has been slow compared to other platforms for quite some time. The reason for this is that there is more to PC gaming than what is measurable through packaged game sales or digital download sales.
Where the game begins and where the creativity begins is really hard to say. So many people are influencers, vloggers, and avatars. The definition of gaming is much broader on PC. If you look at one of the most important apps on PC right now, it’s generative AI. All those people who create animation images and game images. PC gaming has always been an expanding category that is reinventing and redefining itself.
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