Nvidia came on strong at SIGGRAPH with announcements targeting everyone from laptop users looking for pro-caliber GPU acceleration to workstation users looking for the most efficient ways to speed up render jobs on the desktop.

Most tantalizingly, Nvidia introduced the OptiX 5.0 SDK, an AI-driven platform that dramatically increases the speed of ray-tracing with recently developed denoising capabilities. Greg Estes, VP of developer programs, said machine-learning techniques were used to develop a system that understands the visual relationship between very roughly ray-traced images and their more finished counterparts.

Training Neural Networks to Bypass Traditional Render Techniques

“The neural network uses tens of thousands of image pairs,” Estes explained. “One image is one path per pixel, a noisy image, and the other reference image uses 4,000 paths per pixel. The DNN [deep neural network] learns how to map the different types of noise to the correct, denoised pixels.” With the network thus trained, it can perform what’s known as inference, analyzing and processing unfamiliar (and noisy) images to achieve similar (noise-free) results. An image that is rendered with one simulated light ray per pixel can be effectively denoised by the AI in 1/10 of a second, Estes said.

“It’s very dramatic, and it’s going to change the way that people work,” he said.

The grainy image on the left is rendered with only one light ray per pixel simulated; the trained AI can create the image on the right in 1/10 of a second, Nvidia says.

Nvidia DGX Station

To underscore the amount of rendering power that can now be contained in a single workstation, Estes pointed to the forthcoming DGX Station, a compact appliance (Nvidia calls it a “deskside AI workstation”) built around four Nvidia Tesla V100 GPUs with 16 GB of memory per GPU, 480 TFLOPS of processing power, and 256 GB of DDR4 system memory.

Nvidia claims that operating a render farm at the same level of performance would require more than 150 servers with much greater power consumption needs, and estimates a DGX Station could be operated over three years for less than $75,000.

Optix 5.0 will be released free to registered developers in November, the company said.

Announcing Outboard Titan X and Quadro Support

In less dramatic but still welcome news, Nvidia also announced that, beginning in September, its Titan X and Quadro graphics will be available for use with an external GPU (eGPU) chassis via Thunderbolt 3. Channel partners including Bizon, Sonnet, and One Stop Systems/Magma will be qualified to offer eGPU systems with Quadrio GP100, P6000, P5000 and P4000 cards for the pro market, with more partners to come.

Nvidia Quadro graphics in an eGPU chassis

Additionally, the Titan X card is getting a new driver to boost performance in applications including Autodesk Maya and Adobe Premiere Pro, Nvidia said.

New VRWorks 360 Video SDK Coming Soon

Nvidia also pressed forward in the 360/VR space, announcing the VRWorks 360 Video SDK, which it said accelerates the stitching process for stereoscopic 360 video acquisition. Z Cam will be the first to integrate the SDK, making it work with its V1 Pro camera and WonderStitch and WonderLive stitching applications. The new SDK will be available on August 7, Nvidia said.

At SIGGRAPH 2016, Nvidia showed live 360 streaming, but only in 2D, stitching views from four cameras. This year, Nvidia said it will demonstrate live stereo 360 eight V1 Pro cameras and the Quadro P6000 GPU at its booth, #403.