CES 2017 – NVIDIA: Why Be a Human When a Robot Can Do it for You?

NVIDIA's CES keynote was a whole new level of wrong - not Qualcomm 2013 wrong, but "I don't want to live on this planet anymore" wrong.

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NVIDIA’s logo has always looked like an eye to me – an eye with a kind of hypnotizing factor to it. An eye that grabs the viewer and sucks them in. NVIDIA has proved itself to be incredibly successful – it is the most used PC gaming [GPU] platform on the planet, having its hand deep in the now $31 billion industry.

The world holds about two billion PC users, Jen-Hsun Huang, NVIDIA’s co-founder and CEO reported, and roughly half of those users are not PC gaming ready. NVIDIA wanted to change that, and help those in need – gamers who can’t afford/who don’t have access to premium parts that make their PCs ready for the newest, hottest titles. GEForce Now is a simple client you download to your PC (or Mac), and within fifteen seconds, your Steam Library is streamed from the cloud and onto your machine regardless of specs.

While GEForce Now would solve a lot of problems when it comes to people without consoles (and/or outdated machines) wanting to get a taste of the newest games, it does come with a cost. For every twenty hours of gameplay, GEForce Now will cost you $25. While Playstation Now may have its latency and video quality issues from time to time, Sony has changed the prices drastically, offering what seems to be unlimited playtime for $99.99/year. Doing the math, a PS4 is much cheaper than your average rig, and if it is in fact $99.99 a year for unlimited play, going that route is the much better deal. All things aside, GEForce Now is a huge step in the right direction for making PC gaming inclusive.

In addition to GEForce Now, NVIDIA also announced the new Shield – the 4K HDR Shield which will retail for $199 and release later this month with additional features like Netflix, Hulu, and other premium streaming services. The new Shield aims to be your new Roku and game streaming device, and seamlessly integrate with the new Google Assistant TV. The TV that, much like the new Google Pixel, listens to you and executes your commands.

Dave Oshry’s Tweet may not make sense without context, and that’s okay.. None of it really made sense. NVIDIA actually opened up with a long rant about how they’ve been creating a “deep learning artificial intelligence.” This mysterious AI has reportedly learned how to walk, how to drive (“Why learn how to drive when we can teach our cars how to drive?” – literally NVIDIA), synthesize voices of others, play Doom, and even play the notoriously difficult game Go, and defeat the game’s creator at his own game.

Artificial intelligence is a very touchy and controversial topic these days, and while this all seemed cool, it only opened the door to a much deeper, darker, scarier hole of where the future was going. Huang said some scary shit, like how we need to “get rid of the waste [that is parked cars in parking lots]”, and “we want the autonomous car to be the best personal robot” and my personal favorite, “it’s either driving you or guiding you. And when it’s not, it’s still fully engaged.”

NVIDIA Spot
Smart House x Black Mirror the Anime: Coming Soon to a house near you

Things really started to take a turn when announcing the Spot, an AI microphone that is meant to “be plugged in all over the home” and to “always listen” to any questions or statements said by the home’s residents. Huang proudly stated the Spot has the ability to triangulate the voices in a room and use beam technology to target the person speaking with its antennas. 

A video demonstration (in which my cousin begged “please don’t show us” out of genuine fear and discomfort) showed a guy in his twenties getting out of bed saying, “Okay Google, I’m starting my day.” Spot acknowledged his dialog and turned his thermostat up, opened the blinds, and started the coffee. His home was also equipped with the Google-Assistant-equipped television, promptly completing his request to watch the news. When he was all ready to head out the door, he simply told the house “okay, I’m leaving” and the lights dimmed, blinds lowered, garage door closed, and the Roomba turned on.

While it sounds great, NVIDIA’s approach to this whole “autonomous” lifestyle is quite creepy. The most terrifying was the autonomous car – it utilizes facial scanning technology to see where you’re looking, and what is happening in the opposite direction of your gaze. Say you’re looking to your right and a motorcycle is approaching you on the left – the car will “naturally” (the voice is far from natural) tell you about the motorcycle coming up. Sure, this technology could save a lot of lives and improve driving, but not when the technology is constantly pressuring you to use the autonomous features and its creators are repeatedly reminding you that robots are capable of doing basic human functions for you.

This is the future a lot of us are scared of – the Wall-E or Idiocracy future of being useless and having machines live our lives for us. For NVIDIA to make a jump this large from what we’re used to (Petnet, Nest, etc) to plugging in AI microphones in every room in our house is a very large risk. We don’t know enough about artificial intelligence to say it has earned our trust. After all, we saw what happened between the Quarian and the Geth. We don’t want that to happen, right?

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Tatjana Vejnovic
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