Inaugural GTC Israel Focuses on Nation of Startups

Over 1,600 developers, entrepreneurs and technologists jammed into Tel Aviv’s glass-walled Convention Center on Wednesday, the latest swing in our six-city global GPU Technology Conference tour.

In a broad and technically deep keynote, NVIDIA founder and CEO Jensen Huang described the new computing era set loose by accelerated computing. He provided an often detailed, at times sly, tour of the three computing platforms NVIDIA’s created to propel enterprises in this brave new world: the Holodeck VR collaboration studio; AI computing for training and staggeringly fast inferencing; and the next generation of autonomous machines, such as self-driving cars and robotics.

Standing-room audiences attended many of the conference’s 50 plus speaking sessions, delivered by a mix of local startup CEOs, researchers and execs from U.S. tech giants. Nearly two dozen local startups had booths in the exhibition hall, where they described their disruptive activities using GPUs. And six hot AI startups went head to head, competing for an AI personal supercomputer.

Huang told a crowd of reporters that GTC Israel was an opportunity for NVIDIA to engage with some of Israel’s 120,000 developers in one of the world’s most flourishing technology centers.

Our Journey as a Global Company Has Just Begun

“We see ourselves in large part as a startup, and our journey to become a global company has only just begun,” Huang said in a voice hoarse from delivering his third GTC keynote in as many weeks, following events in Beijing and Munich.

Additional GTCs are set for Taipei, Washington and Tokyo, bringing total attendance at the conferences this year to 22,000.

“We’re here in Israel for the same reasons that a lot of international companies come to Israel — we’re looking for talent,” Huang said. “And this is a wonderful place to create innovation, for lots of reasons — education, the army, cultural and human diversity and more. All these create a very magical place here, and I’m excited about our future plans here.”

NVIDIA CEO Jensen Huang spoke to a crowd of thousands of entrepreneurs and technologists.

Israel, after all, a country the size of New Jersey and with fewer residents than New York City, has won a dozen Nobel prizes. It lags behind only the U.S. in the value of invested VC funds and the most number of startups in absolute terms. It also has by far the most startups relative to its size, with some 5,000 new companies in a country of 8.5 million people.

The broadly diverse crowd at GTC Israel ranged from snappily dressed VCs to soldiers in army green attached to IDF technical units, to jean-clad startup engineers from the constellation of towns north of Tel Aviv. Many said they could relate to NVIDIA’s own rise from a three-man startup 25 years ago to a $100 billion company, measured by market cap.

Huang told them that they stand at a unique juncture.

A New Era for Startups

“In each era, new startups were formed and grew to be giants. It’s now a new era, and it’s very clear this new era will be the largest of all,” he said in his keynote. “In previous waves, automation was the biggest force — farming was automated, the industrial revolution was automation, and now this is era of the automation of automation. The potential of AI is so incredibly exciting, it’s fueling innovation all over the world.”

Attendees at GTC Israel crowded into training sessions offered by NVIDIA’s Deep Learning Institute.

As at other NVIDIA events this year, GTC Israel featured hands-on courses in AI techniques from the company’s Deep Learning Institute the day before the show kicked off. The offerings were sold out, with more than 200 experienced developers augmenting their AI skills in a variety of areas.

NVIDIA announced at GTC Israel that its Inception program – a virtual incubator for AI and big-data startups – has now reached 2,000 companies worldwide, with the addition of Imagry, a Haifa-based startup using machine learning to embed image recognition capabilities on any device.

And while 70 Inception members are in Israel, six of the most exciting competed head-to-head to win an NVIDIA DGX Station AI personal supercomputer. The winner was Cognata, which uses simulations to train autonomous vehicles across wide-ranging, realistic environments without ever pulling out of the driveway. Its CEO, Danny Atsmon, said that this is his third startup that relies on NVIDIA GPUs to accelerate its workflow.

Coganta, which uses simulations to train autonomous vehicles across wide-ranging, realistic environments, won a DGX Station at GTC Israel’s Inception Awards.

Where You Come to See the Future

In his keynote, Huang emphasized the acceleration capabilities of GPUs, which can drive speedups of more than 100x, allowing work to be done dramatically faster, leading to more innovation at lower cost. That, effectively, means they can enable time travel.

“If GPUs really are time machines, then GTC is where you come to see the future,” he said.

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NVIDIA Inception Awards Come to Tel Aviv: Ultimate Startup Faceoff Plays Out in Ultimate Startup Center

It was the ultimate setting – like playing baseball at Yankee Stadium or singing opera at La Scala.

NVIDIA’s Inception Award competition for promising AI startups found its perfect home today in a packed auditorium in Tel Aviv, the epicenter of Israel’s startup culture.

In a nation with the highest number of startups per capita — some 5,000 fledgling companies in a country of 8.5 million people — six of the best competed head-on at GTC Israel, our inaugural local edition of the GPU Technology Conference, which is on a global swing through six cities this fall.

In quarter-hour blocks, their CEOs described their business strategy and fielded questions from five judges with deep startup experience, including execs from three Israeli VC firms specializing in AI. The format, longer than the typical several-minute martial-arts like square-offs that place in other startup competitions.

As more than 150 GTC attendees looked on, the judges named as winner Cognata, which uses simulations to train autonomous vehicles across wide-ranging, realistic environments without ever pulling out of the driveway. The prize: an NVIDIA DGX Station personal AI supercomputer, with four of the latest NVIDIA V100 GPU accelerators providing the processing capability of 400 CPUs, worth $69,000.

“We’ll be number crunching and running generative adversarial networks all day and night with this,” said Danny Atsmon, Cognata’s jubiliant CEO, as he received the award. He was joined on stage by the company’s full complement of 16 cheering staff members.

Atsmon, an expert in ADAS and deep learning, said that he’s now founded three companies and all were built on NVIDIA’s GPU technology. He said AI and GPUs are especially critical for Cognata, which estimates that an autonomous car will need 11 billion miles of road travel before it can be fully trained — something impossible without simulation.

“We’re grateful to NVIDIA for democratizing the AI market for the rest of the world,” he said.

Other companies that competed for the Inception Awards in Tel Aviv included:

  • Deep Trading – Seeks to unravel the mystery of international financial markets by using deep learning and CUDA to predict the movements of financial markets.
  • VaultML – Deploys AI to sort out flops from hits by predicting how audiences will react to content — such as scripts, movies and trailers.
  • Cognitive ID – Anticipates computer screens without passwords, which it seeks to replace with authentication algorithms that analyze up to 700 cognitive, physiological and psychological parameters.
  • VayaVision – Fuses data from lidar, radar and cameras to generate 3D models of surroundings.
  • Presenso – Uses AI to provide real-time predictions of when industrial equipment, like heavy machinery, are likely to fail.

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NVIDIA’s Inception Program for AI Startups Adds 2,000th Member

Less than 18 months after its launch, NVIDIA’s Inception program — which helps accelerate startups pushing the frontiers of AI and data science — has signed up its 2,000th member company.

The milestone was reached with Imagry, a Haifa, Israel-based startup using machine learning to embed image recognition capabilities on any device.

NVIDIA made the announcement in Tel Aviv, at our inaugural GPU Technology Conference in Israel, part of a series of GTC events being held this year in Silicon Valley, Beijing, Munich and Taipei, among other locations.

It’s an appropriate location for the 2,000th Inception member company. Israel is said to have the highest density of startups of any nation — with an estimated 4,000-5,000 new companies in a nation of 8.5 million people.

Nearly 70 of them are in our Inception program, including Deep Instinct, which deploys AI for cybersecurity; Zebra Medical Vision, which uses AI to automate medical image diagnosis; and AIdoc, which uses AI to speed radiologists’ workflows.    

Imagry uses AI to help enable cars to drive autonomously. Its CEO, Adham Ghazali, said that being an Inception member will help accelerate the company’s ability to access NVIDIA’s deep learning hardware, software and partner ecosystem.

GTC Israel — which is being attended by more than 1,000 developers, company execs and entrepreneurs — features a keynote by NVIDIA CEO and founder Jensen Huang, and more than 40 talks on AI and other topics.

Its Inception Awards will shine a spotlight on the best young companies in AI. Six finalists from scores of competitors will face off and pitch their companies to a live audience of VCs and executives, as well as a panel of judges.

We’ll announce the winners — who get to take home an NVIDIA DGX Station personal AI supercomputer worth $69,000 — this evening.

Since the Inception program began in June 2016, companies have been signing up in droves. Among its benefits are:

  • NVIDIA deep learning technologies – Early access to the latest GPU hardware, as well as the NVIDIA Deep Learning SDK, the NVIDIA DIGITS deep learning GPU training system and the NVIDIA GPU Inference Engine.
  • Deep learning expertise – Access to NVIDIA’s deep learning experts and world-class engineering teams. These teams include computational mathematicians who specialize in designing algorithms for GPU-accelerated computing platforms.
  • A global network – Customers, partners and suppliers spanning the globe, as well as NVIDIA’s marketing reach.
  • Technical training – Online and in-person courses are available via the NVIDIA Deep Learning Institute.

Companies interested in joining can learn more and apply on the Inception program website.


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Extreme Weather: GPUs Help Startup Provide Hyperlocal, High-Resolution ‘Nowcasting’

In the U.S., weather data begins and ends with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Its High Resolution Rapid Refresh model assimilates observation data every 15 minutes and provides updated weather predictions every hour.

To get better data than what NOAA provides, you’d need to invest billions of dollars to build out a new layer of sensors. Or hire teams of Ph.D.s doing some magical data science.

ClimaCell's nowcasting GPU model in action.Boston-based startup ClimaCell had a better idea: software.

A trio of Israeli military veterans – Shimon Elkabetz, Itai Zlotnik and Rei Goffer – founded the weather tech company in 2015. All three were heavy consumers of weather information during their years in the military. Real-time, historical, future — name the timeframe and they needed to know the weather for it.

But they noticed there were significant gaps in the information. The data didn’t come quickly enough, and their forecasting efforts lacked precision.

Reunited a few years later while working on graduate degrees at Harvard and MIT, the three compared their stories. They realized they had an opportunity to revolutionize the use of weather data with hyper-local, accurate, high-resolution “nowcasting” that helps businesses and people make better decisions.

“To do something significant, we had to improve the modeling perspective, and also the computing power perspective,” Elkabetz said. “The next phase for us is to go from being a weather information provider to an intelligence provider.”

New Source of Weather Insight

The market ClimaCell is going after isn’t just looking up the weather online before deciding to wear a jacket or bring an umbrella to work. They aim to unlock the data behind the weather for aviation, military, driving, construction, finance, event planning and other markets.

To achieve this, Elkabetz said, the company had to tap, and improve upon, a real-time source of weather data. The answer the company’s founders settled on: Writing software that creates more sensors by tapping into the signals of existing communication networks. ClimaCell uses these nodes spread throughout a geography to sense their environments and extract real-time weather data.

“What we’re accessing is signals and measurements from a variety of networks,” said Elkabetz. “We are assembling the networks constantly, analyzing the signals very fast, integrating them with NOAA data, and then plugging everything together in a model that’s running on GPUs.”

ClimaCell uses this data to create a nowcasting model that provides short-term weather predictions for the ensuing three to six hours. In other words, the company’s solution builds upon NOAA data to deliver something better and more immediate.

“Our model is updated every minute,” Elkabetz said. “It is refreshing at a much, much faster rate” than NOAA’s.

The Road to Global Impact

A key ingredient in ClimaCell’s technology is the GPU. The company uses NVIDIA Tesla GPU accelerators at several levels — for rapid and frequent data visualizations, running its algorithms, analyzing signals and, eventually, for running the predictive models it’s working on.

Elkabetz credits the affordability, speed and availability of modern GPUs, not to mention their use by cloud providers, for enabling young companies like ClimaCell to build services never before thought possible.

And while ClimaCell’s work has it eyeing many new markets, including insurance, outdoor entertainment and on-demand services such as ride-sharing, its biggest impact down the line may be less about generating revenue and more about changing the world.

“The most exciting aspect,” Elkabetz said, “is implementation of this technology in other countries where this kind of data is not as reliable.”

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NVIDIA GPUs Are VR Ready for New Microsoft Windows Mixed Reality Headsets

Windows Mixed Reality headsets are hitting the market starting today from Acer, Dell, HP, Lenovo, Samsung and other leading OEMs. They debut a major feature to the PC virtual reality ecosystem — inside-out tracking — which means no external cameras or sensors are needed to track the headset in space. This will make setup and configuration of VR much easier for consumers.

These headsets are launching alongside the new Windows 10 Fall Creators Update.

NVIDIA has collaborated closely with Microsoft on the new update to ensure our GPUs deliver a great VR experience. In fact, we’ve shipped a Game Ready driver that provides the best performance and compatibility for mixed reality headsets and games when paired with NVIDIA VR Ready GPUs. Grab the Game Ready driver here.

Having the best possible quality for a game at launch is important. It’s even more important for VR titles. Gameplay issues or bugs can break immersion and ruin a VR experience. Our long-running Game Ready driver program delivers the best possible experience by optimizing performance and latency for smooth, stutter-free VR gameplay.

Get VR Ready

For the optimal VR experience with Windows Mixed Reality headsets, we recommend GeForce GTX 1060 or higher VR Ready GPUs. Delivering immersive VR is a complex challenge. It requires seven times the graphics processing power compared to traditional 3D applications and games.

To make it easy for consumers to find the right desktop or notebook PC, look no further than our VR Ready PC Program.

To get started with Windows Mixed Reality today, make sure that your NVIDIA GPU is VR Ready, download the Windows 10 Fall Creators Update and head over to the Windows Store to check out the new headset options.


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Painting with Content: AI Will Accelerate Creative Work, Artomatix CTO Says

Video games have evolved into sprawling virtual worlds that can take months to explore. Retailers are building ever more detailed 3D environments to showcase their wares. And in a high-definition world, digital effects in movies and television grow ever more elaborate.

Demand for quality digital content is exploding, and so are the costs involved in creating it.

The solution, explained Artomatix CTO Eric Risser to scores of technologists, designers and entrepreneurs crowding into a talk at GTC Europe Thursday, will be to harness deep learning to combine the speed of computers with the flexibility of human artists.

Painting with Content

“In the future artists aren’t going to paint with colors anymore, they’re going to start painting with content,” Risser said. “They’ll quickly sketch what they want, then they’ll have the AI go and fill in the content.”

One of many breakthroughs, Risser said, came in 2015, when a paper authored by Leon A. Gatys, Alexander S. Ecker and Matthias Bethge — building on decades of research into an obscure field called “texture synthesis” — detailed how to use convolutional neural networks to quickly turn a small sample of a texture into patterns that appear natural to the human eye.

That work sparked an explosion of innovation, with neural networks being built into sophisticated production tools for video games and movies offered by shops such as Dublin-based Artomatix.

But video games — where a sprawling open world game can take five years and $250 million to create — are just the start. Deep learning promises to help humans create everything from architecture to fashion to movies and, ultimately, rich virtual worlds more quickly and easily, Risser said.

Based in a former Guinness brewery, Artomatix uses machine learning and big data analytics to produce everything from detailed landscapes to armies of bad guys, each different from the next. The company won our $100,000 Early Stage Challenge at NVIDIA’s Emerging Companies Summit in 2015.

 The Zombie Graph

Its work hinges on a phenomenon explained by what Risser calls a “zombie graph.” When you create an example of a video game monster, explained Risser, who holds a Ph.D. from Trinity College Dublin, it contains a great deal of unique information. Add another zombie, and you get a little more unique information.

After a while a pattern starts to form, with the amount of unique information added with each additional zombie decreasing, even as the number of examples grows.

Artomatix uses machine learning to make the most of the unique information offered by just a handful of examples of zombies to generate an entire army of unique-looking ones.

That saves artists time — and drudgery — while giving gamers the variety they need to immerse themselves in a digital world. It’s an example of a trend that promises to change the economics of content creation, for the better.

And just in time.

Everyone from architects to auto designers to furniture companies are building three-dimensional models to design and sell their goods, Risser said.
And while humans, who Risser describes as “creative nuclear reactors,” can create this content, there’s just much more work than there are people.

“That’s where creative AI is really disruptive, because it’s been able to break through this supply ceiling,” Risser said.

Content for the Next Generation of Social Media

Meanwhile, immersive, collaborative VR technology experiences, like NVIDIA Holodeck, will morph from a tool for designing real-world products into environments where richly detailed virtual worlds can be enjoyed.

“That’s going to be the next generation of social media,” Risser said. “You’re going to build a custom space, unique to you, and you’re going to want to fill it with unique stuff that is uniquely yours — this is where creative AI can come in and build virtual worlds for you.”

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