‘Make in India’ campaign is good for us to produce better tools for companies: Nvidia Quadro VP

Bob Pette is vice president of professional services of Nvidia Graphics. Bob has over a decade of experience in the visualization, high-performance computing and mobile technologies. He is an expert in the area of high-end visualization, multi-touch technology, interactive supercomputing, Defense and Intelligence solutions, mobile technologies and has played an crucial role as an architect for Visual Computing Solutions for Fortune 1000 companies, ISV’s and Bob is one of the the Board of Directors for Touch Share, a SaaS software company focusing on geospatial collaboration and visualization. Prior to this, Bob was associated with Silicon Graphics (SGI), where he held the position of VP visualization. He has also chaired as the board of directors for Perspective Pixel. Excerpts of his interaction with AnimationXpress.com’s Tarachand Wanvari during which he throws light on Nvdia’s strategies and some of its products and their capabilities Bob_PetteStarting off, can you please tell us about your journey with Nvidia? I started out as an aerospace engineer in Silicon Graphics and was with them for 21 years. After that long stint, I came to Nvidia in 2008 or 2009, and worked with the Quadro and Tesla teams for a couple of years, then I ventured into a few startups. Since I have been doing visualization for 33 years, I got a call from our CEO Jen-Hsun Huang to come back and run the Pro Viz Group. I was happy to come back, and one of the main reasons was how Jen-Hsun was describing the transformation of the company from just selling graphic cards to OEMs to becoming a truly dominant platform provider, directly for consumers and end users. He told me that he didn’t want me to come back to a group that sells graphics cards to people but wanted me to come back to a group that gave visualization solutions. This is my second stint with Nvidia and my main driver is to grow the business, but obviously grow it more in a solutions way and platform way. Initially that means a lot of software sells. The thought being that we can enable more people with free software than more graphics cards. We are targeting our core markets which are manufacturing, energy, gas, medical, who are looking for software solutions and appliance solutions which can help them solve their problems. Apart from graphic cards what other business units does Nvidia cater to?  We have four basic business units at Nvidia. For example, in gaming we cater to GeForce cards, GeForce Now and Shield TV. While GeForce Now concentrates on gaming, Shield TV takes into account both entertainment and gaming. That’s where we are directly marketing towards end-users, especially through GeForce Now and Shield TV. Next, there’s the auto business unit, not so much from the design standpoint, but from the inside of the car displays that focuses on autotainment and more and more from autonomous driving. The third and fourth unit is actually from the enterprise part of NVIDIA, dealing with large companies around the world, including machine learning, running a data centre for compute and Quadro ProViz from a visualization standpoint. The reason why I am saying Quadro is that Quadro is the brand of the cards that we provide for mobile desktops and Pro Viz to me means Virtual reality, real time rendering or solving a customer’s problem. Nvidia recently released DesignWorks, how does it help in design? One of the problems that we really tackled with is the need to accelerate rendering in the design process, whether it’s making a car, building a house or making a tablet. Process and design has been a tedious one with generic CAD, one makes them with a creative view and then batch renders it to see what it is going to look like in reality and there are changes that need to be made, and so one has to go back to the beginning of the process. A lot of our customers told us that they really wanted to shrink that thought process. Creative people know how their car should look like, they know how their watch should look like but it’s a very long process and multiple apps and multiple steps to get from drawing board to make it full function. So with Designworks, what we really like to do is photo realism in the thought process. We have historically worked with the Solidworks and Autodesks of the world, to put GPU-accelerated rendering in their software, and had good success with it. But, the refresh for the software cycle, the adoptions of the new code, isn’t as fast as customers would want it to be. So we moved to developing plugins, based on available APIs so we can accelerate rendering, whether it’s in an NVIDIA app or design app or apps used for design architecture. We have a roadmap for targeted apps or targeted markets, where we will show the power of GPU rendering and near real-time ray tracing and how that really improves the workload with quality and design. For example, in the case of the car, spending half the time in creative, which is completely a different group in the automotive company, having them render something, then having someone else change the colour or change the slope of something, the process goes all the way back to the design. With our software, this can all happen in a much shorter time frame. So the designer or the original car designer can be an integral part working on creative issues, styling issues, functional issues by our real time rendering base. And what about Ray-Tracing? Ray tracing has always and will always provide the most realistic view so it takes into account light which is colour, colour spectrum and given a particular area of the screen, a particular thing you want to draw, an object, it will take into account for each pixel that is part of the rendering frame, all the possible light and colours that will bounce in that frame from all possible directions. For example, the light coming from that window is bouncing from your glasses, bouncing off my shirt. It will always produce the most realistic thing but it’s a computationally intensive process. And rendering in general, is not using ray tracing has historically been an offline process. If you are in VR, or in a hologram and you are really trying to sit in a car, you put on your glasses to see how far it is to the radio buttons or if you really want to see how the light shines of on your custom paint job which you paid five thousand extra bucks for, it has to look real. The only way to do that to make it look real is with ray tracing. If I were to try to do that in a normal computer graphics iteration, I couldn’t create enough triangles to fit into CPUs or GPUs, and still get the glint at the back of the car, with the exact colour or paint I could get close to a colour like this, but I wouldn’t be able to get it to look real. We are getting closer to be able to render a product in real time. What about gaming, animation and VFX? I’ll address the VFX and Animation first, as Gaming is another business unit. Media and entertainment has always been a niche part of NVIDIA. We are already partners with Maya and After Effects but we are also working on developing plugins for them. iRay 4 or Cinema 4D are popular apps for VFX and animations enabling realistic rendering of an unrealistic thing or putting an unrealistic monster in a realistic set. The value of the rendering is speeding it up, meaning that the director of the movie can shorten his time so the same philosophy applies there. Those guys require bigger and bigger GPUs to fit bigger and bigger scenes, so part of the value of this software is that it can easily run through multiple GPUs. Hence the workload can be distributed without the need of them building a whole datacenter. But we also want to build bigger GPUs, so you will see bigger and bigger GPUs with bigger frame buffers to address the demand of the VFX. Nvidia_GameWorks And GameWorks? Could you speak on that? GameWorks has a similar set of toolkit for developing games. The reasons we started to come out with GameWorks, Hairworks, Faceworks and VisionWorks is to reinforce that these are meant to be used together, and when used together they are going to work better together, and developers kind of depend on just building individual pieces. In the past, people could put those things together but we didn’t think of them in a way like that, we thought of individual elements and DesignWorks is general in a way to make sure that all things work together so that people can be more creative. These could be game changers as far as Design is concerned. Bob: Absolutely. It will be a lot easier for people to not be looking at how to do things or look for the best way to do it. Thus, sometimes NVIDIA provides five ways to do things. I think over time, where we will invest is where we can make the most dramatic change for customers and try to simplify things for them. If they are trying to build a car, it shouldn’t be in low level graphics. We want to change that, we want our customers to get closer and closer to the real thing. What about India, you have been to so many countries, what about India from all perspectives – it could be selling here, design here, use in India of your products, could you elaborate something on that? We got a large population in India. Our Pune office is our second largest office in the world. It has over 2,000 employees. So India for us is extremely important, it’s essentially important for me because the QA team for Quadro software is majorly based in India. We have made some acquisitions of some key companies here, and those are providing extreme values in terms of our software development in QA and helping us produce more professional products. I have been coming to India for over 20 years and one of the things I like most about India is the welcoming audience, and the desire to enable every student to become better engineers, better designers. Also, another thing that I appreciate about India is their thirst for new technologies, and so the ‘Make in India’ campaign is good for us because I think we can help people to improve the design process thus taking advantage of the talented India to produce better tools for companies. I think the use of technology is very valuable, and in India I see a huge potential of growth.