Metaverse: 'Train your robots in the virtual world' (CXOTalk interview)

In this exclusive conversation, the CTO of Nvidia talks about the metaverse, cloud computing, data centers, money, and cryptocurrency. Michael Kagan offers a glimpse into the future and separates fact from fiction in the metaverse.
Written by Michael Krigsman, Contributor

With so much hype around the metaverse, I decided it was time to ask one of the world's experts to explain the concept and separate fact from fiction.

With that in mind, I invited Michael Kagan, Chief Technology Officer of Nvidia, as my guest on episode 750 of the CXOTalk series of conversations on leadership, technology, and managing change. As Nvidia's CTO, Michael coordinates technology architecture across the company, including the Omniverse, their collaboration platform for creating virtual worlds.

To me, the most fascinating parts of the discussion centered on two areas: his explanation of the metaverse (or Omniverse, to use the Nvidia term) and his view of data centers as the core unit of modern computing. Along the way, we also touched on digital twins and the role of cryptocurrencies in the metaverse.

Michael Kagan is a deep technologist who has been designing microprocessor chips, starting with Intel, for decades. Despite his engineering roots, Michael explained the technology in clear terms to businesspeople. 

To learn about the metaverse, watch the entire conversation in the embedded video above and read his edited comments below.

On being CTO at Nvidia

My charter is to architect across the wealth of Nvidia technologies. It's an amazing opportunity to build the computing of the 21st century. My job as the CTO of Nvidia is to architect across technologies.

On the metaverse or Omniverse

The metaverse is a virtual world. It's a world where you can make your fairytales come true. Omniverse is the implementation of this idea.

You can create a virtual world. You can live in the virtual world. You can collaborate in the virtual world across the globe with no boundaries, geographical boundaries, limitations, or language boundaries. You can work together. You can connect this virtual world to the real world, and you can make your fantasies come through.

One project we are embarking on at Nvidia is doing a simulation of the real world, of the Earth. With the omniverse, you can make history to be experimental science.

You can simulate what will happen in the future. For example, how do we handle global warming, and how do we handle climate change?

Making fairytales is great, but you can simulate large projects before you build them.

You may have heard that large car manufacturers like BMW are working with us. They're simulating their large project before they build it.

Once we build something, you have a digital twin of this project, be it a data center, be it a manufacturing plant, be it a smart city. You can interact with the digital twin and train your robots in the virtual world to be better robots in the real world.

Omniverse is the future. It's the bicycle of imagination or, as Steve Jobs called it, the computer bicycle of the mind. The omniverse is the bicycle of imagination.

On cloud computing and data centers

Everything that moves will have an AI model that helps it to make the decision and respond to the conditions that are happening. These decisions are yet another learning.

The data center consolidates the learnings and updates the model for the cars and then updates the cars with the new model, which is now integrating the learnings from all other cars that were running that day. You have perpetual learning at a much higher rate than before.

Cloud computing makes these services [possible]. Computing and storage are the services.

[As an example,] think about Waze as a micro-virtual world of traffic. People that use Waze collaborate with each other. They create this world, this model, and the data of real-time traffic on the road. They use it and work with each other. They collaborate (without even knowing each other) by sharing the data and letting the data center, the Waze servers in the data center, consolidate the data and use it to steer the traffic.

The most amazing thing about Waze is that millions of people collaborate with each other implicitly and benefit from this collaboration. It could only be enabled by technology that can collect data from millions of sensors, consolidate it, and send back insights.

The data center is a computer on its own. It's a single unit of computing delivering services to billions of users.

On cryptocurrency

Today, currency is a mutual spreadsheet or mutual table that is in the bank. You go to the store. You sign some paper, and a number moves from one table to another in the bank. You go out with a cart from the store or some other thing.

Currency and money [will] become more and more abstract. money, the currency, is analogous to electricity. The electric energy of course is nothing by itself. But by using energy, you can do pretty much everything you want. I think that's what is happening with currency.

Right now, currencies are associated with countries and there are different exchange rates. It will be interesting to see how this evolves with the digital world, with digital currencies.

Currency and money and finances [will] become more abstract and be a surrogate you can use to build or consume and make things.

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