A CGI replica of Nvidia’s CEO delivered his keynote and no one knew

The company revealed that parts of a keynote speech made by the CEO were actually a computer-generated animation, and not real video of Jensen Huang.

Most people hate giving presentations, but thankfully someday you might be able to give one without actually delivering it yourself at all. Nvidia, the maker of popular graphics cards, revealed yesterday that parts of a keynote speech made by its CEO were actually computer-generated animation — an entire virtual replica of Jensen Huang and his kitchen in the background.

Sleight of hand — The speech happened in April, and only about 14 seconds of the nearly two-hour presentation were animated. But part of the presentation showed Huang magically disappear and his kitchen explode, which made viewers wonder what exactly was real or rendered. It’s hard to actually identify the fake portion, however, which is the most impressive part.

Granted, creating the rendered version of Huang involved a lot of work. Using a truck full of DSLR cameras, a full face and body scan was captured to create a 3D model, and then artificial intelligence was trained to mimic his gestures and expressions. Nvidia says it also applied some other “AI magic” to make his clone look realistic. Even still, it’s quite an impressive feat that one can watch the presentation and still not be sure what parts of actual, recorded video, and which are fake.

AI magic — Nvidia has shown other ways its powerful graphics processors can be used to influence one’s reality. In response to the COVID pandemic last year, the company revealed a new AI-powered suite of tools that improves the quality of video calls by learning your facial expressions so it can render them on a remote server, reducing the amount of data you use on your own computer and improving clarity for other participants even if your connection quality drops.

Artificial intelligence still isn’t perfect at mimicking complex facial expressions. The technology works by analyzing large amounts of footage and video of a person’s face and then figuring out how to alter it to achieve different expressions. But human faces have so many complexities that subtle details can be off, like the reflections on eyes. And as Nvidia demonstrated, creating a good replica requires a lot of hardware.

But we like the fake AI presenter. Hopefully someday Nvidia will bestow this technology upon the rest of us, so that our next presentation for work won’t even require us to be there at all.