Nvidia Omniverse: Could it make today’s videoconferencing apps obsolete?

While everyone's gotten used to videoconferencing apps that turn everyone into versions of the Brady Bunch — little squares on a screen — there are better ways to meet and network.

Nvidia Omniverse

Disclosure: Nvidia is a client of the author.

This week, Nvidia CEO Jensen Huang met with a bunch of analysts to talk about his Computex announcements, which weren’t as noteworthy as something he said at the end of his presentation. Jensen positioned Omniverse the same way he’d presented autonomous driving 20 years ago — as a worldwide game-changer.  Jensen was right about autonomous technology, which is redefining almost every form of transportation. And I think he is likely right again now. 

I think it is important because I doubt any of the videoconferencing vendors have this on their radar, yet it could make most, if not all, of their platforms obsolete. So let’s look at Omniverse and why it could make every videoconferencing product currently on the market obsolete.

The videoconferencing features we still lack

I’ve been covering videoconferencing since the 1980s, and two requirements have been consistently overlooked: interoperability and side engagements. Interoperability is the one that bugs me the most; it was a clear requirement for telephones early on and it carried through to smartphones (except for video calls). Even Microsoft, which has become an interoperability king almost everyplace else, hasn’t stepped up to address interoperability, likely because a provider can’t.

No competitor will embrace a competing product, but a third party, like Nvidia, could create a standard the others might embrace. 

The other, and far more challenging to solve, problem is side engagement. When you go to a physical meeting, you can have conversations with other people in the room, wander off, and have side chats —  or maybe grab a meal with someone at the event. These side discussions are often valuable because you find out critical things you otherwise wouldn’t have known. You develop relationships that will be useful in your current job and your career long term. 

Omniverse and 'Digital Twins'

Omniverse was created as a collaboration and simulation platform. It is a photorealistic virtual representation of the natural world designed to promote interaction. If you want to meet with someone in Omniverse, you need something that will allow you to enter this virtual world. Ideally, using a virtual reality (VR) headset, you could navigate into a Digital Twin of an office building, find a digital twin of a conference room, and then sit at a virtual table with the other attendees.

You would see their Digital Twins, and they would see yours. Your twin’s mouth moves with your words, and the twin has dressed appropriately for the event, even if you just got out of the shower.  No one would see into your existing home (though you could have a digital twin of your home that they could visit). 

If you want to have a conversation with another attendee, the conferencing app would allow you to select that attendee in the room (regardless of where they are virtually seated), render your conversation private, and give you a secure communications channel without muting the speaker or other attendees. This approach would arguably be better than being there in person, where you’d be seen and heard. 

Speech-to-text features could capture what’s being said. A conversational AI could then generate a summary of the meeting, highlighting the things you’re most interested in and create a timeline and reminders for tasks you agreed to take on. 

For every discussion topic revolving around a thing or place, the relevant Digital Twin could be brought in, or the group could virtually travel to where it is located in the Omniverse with a click of the mouse.  And regardless of where you are physically, you could always be at the meeting on time, take non-disruptive breaks (the conversational AI would take notes for you, and you could continue to listen), and your avatar would always look its best. 

Wrapping Up

What Huan said in his final remarks is that Omniverse has more revenue potential for designers than the real world because Omniverse has no physical limitation. It could eventually lead to numerous parallel virtual worlds, creating a near endless opportunity for creation not limited by the size of a town, city, nation, or planet. 

It is the Star Trek Holodeck reimagined (here is the Nvidia version) though not hundreds of years in the future; we could have most of this in five years if the right people get behind it. And if that happens, those that aren’t on board will be very much like the firms building smartphones when the iPhone launched — pretty much obsolete. 

Imagine doing a presentation without slides where AI-creates real-time, 3D photorealistic animations of the topic. Omniverse anticipates this world in a way existing platforms do not. This one offering could massively change how we interact and collaborate and make virtual meetings, once and for all, far more productive than the real thing.

Copyright © 2021 IDG Communications, Inc.

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