Deepfakes aren’t all the video sleuths they need to worry about in the future. This week, Nvidia announced that its GPU Technology Conference (GTC) was made almost entirely with its own Omniverse CG platform, and the event took place in April. For months, Nvidia has fooled everyone into believing that the GTC 2021 conference was real — and we’ll be seeing a lot more of that in the years to come.
Since the start of the pandemic, Nvidia CEO Jensen Huang has been giving keynotes from his kitchen. GA 2021 still a kitchen keynote, but this time with a fully virtual kitchen made in Omniverse. Even more impressive, the Nvidia team managed to create a CG model of Huang that provided part of the keynote.
Of course, the conference wasn’t all fake. Huang was still speaking, and the CG model was on the screen for only a short time. “Of course you can’t have a keynote without a human being of flesh and blood at the center. During all presentations except 14 seconds of the hour and 48 minutes – from 1:02:41 to 1:02:55 – Huang himself spoke in the keynote,” Nvidia wrote in a blog post.
Omniverse is Nvidia’s platform for creating and animating 3D models in a virtual space. It uses simulations, material assets and lighting like other 3D programs, but speeds them up with Nvidia RTX graphics cards. That gives designers the chance to view ray-traced lighting in real time to adjust the scene accordingly.
As the name implies, Omniverse connects artists and the tools they use. The platform itself supports real-time collaboration and brings together resources from multiple 3D applications. In the Connecting in the Metaverse documentary (above), Nvidia specifically mentions Unreal Engine and Autodesk Maya, which some designers used to create the GTC conference along with Omniverse.
Virtual conferences are the new norm for many tech companies, and while some amount to nothing more than a PowerPoint presentation and a speaker, Nvidia showed they can be much more. What’s surprising about the GTC 2021 keynote isn’t that it was virtual, but that Nvidia was able to hide that fact for months.
It underlines how easy it is to trick a large audience into believing that graphics are real, and it’s something we’ll continue to see for years to come. “If we do this right, we’ll be working in Omniverse in 20 years,” said Rev Lebaredian, vice president of Omniverse engineering and simulation at Nvidia.
Still, the technology isn’t perfect. For the short amount of time CG Huang is on screen, it’s easy to see CG at work thanks to some stiff animations and a slightly out-of-sync voiceover. The kitchen is a different story. Even after revisiting GTC 2021 in the knowledge that the kitchen is fake, it’s nearly impossible to tell the difference between the Omniverse model and the real thing.
And now tools for developing these kinds of models are easier than ever to access. In addition to free programs like Blender, there are tools like Unreal Engine’s MetaHuman, which can generate a realistic character model in less than an hour.
That’s exciting for the world of CG, but it comes with concerns. The rise of deepfakes the past few years have made it harder to tell the real from the fake, and as Nvidia proved with its GTC 2021 conference, you can trick a large audience into believing that something rendered by a computer is real.
Hopefully those tools will be put to good use, like a months-long grift where Nvidia kept quiet about a virtual conference everyone thought was real.