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Nvidia's Omniverse is being used to predict forest fires, set up cell networks, and teach cars to drive

·Technology Editor
·3 min read
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Nvidia (NVDA) is going all in on the metaverse, a collection of 3-D online worlds, with announcements related to its own Omniverse platform during the company’s GTC 2021 conference on Nov. 9. 

In addition to new capabilities for Omniverse, including AR and VR functions, the company showed off how third-party firms use Omniverse for everything from predicting the paths of forest fires to developing 5G networks.

Nvidia’s Omniverse acts as the plumbing for its own open-source metaverse experience, competing with Meta (FB), formerly known as Facebook, and Microsoft’s (MSFT) metaverse solutions.

The platform is already available. However, at GTC, Nvidia is showing off its new Omniverse BR, which brings real-time ray-traced VR to the Omniverse suite; Omniverse Remote, which adds augmented reality functionality; and Omniverse Showroom, which lets non-technical users — otherwise known as you and me — mess around with Omniverse tech demos that show off the platform’s rendering and physics technology.

Nvidia and Lockheed Martin are teaming up to use Omniverse to predict forest fires. (Image: Nvidia)
Nvidia and Lockheed Martin are teaming up to use Omniverse to predict forest fires. (Image: Nvidia)

Nvidia’s take on the metaverse focuses on so-called digital twins, or virtual versions of real-world objects or spaces that people can manipulate and study in computer-generated worlds. The company has already worked with BMW to create a digital twin of one of its factories.

At GTC, Nvidia said it and Lockheed Martin (LMT) are teaming up with the U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service and Colorado Division of Fire Prevention and Control to develop digital twins of real forests to better study the impact of fires and help predict their paths.

The companies, according to Nvidia, will set up shop at an AI development lab based in Silicon Valley that will use Nvidia’s Omniverse tech along with Lockheed’s Cognitive Mission Manager AI system to figure out how fires will behave.

Using digital twins of previous fires and current prediction models, the companies plan to deploy the tech to help firefighters respond more quickly to fires. The companies will recreate areas where forest fires have taken place, run simulations of the fires, and use that data to predict the paths of future fires.

Then there’s Nvidia’s work with Ericsson (ERIC). Using Omniverse, Ericsson is creating digital twins of cities, including everything from buildings to the trees that line the streets, to better understand how to lay out 5G networks.

High-speed 5G networks have the potential to enable connections that blow the doors off of even the fastest 4G LTE networks. But they require short-range antennas and their signals are easily interrupted by buildings, trees, and even people.

Using a digital twin of a city gives Ericsson the ability to see how networks should be set up and where they’ll run into the most interference. Nvidia says Ericsson will also be able to use its Omniverse VR platform so that engineers can literally walk around in their digital cities and change the direction of antennas to see how they work in different locales.

Ericsson is using Nvidia's Omniverse to better understand how to layout 5G cellular antennas. (Image: Nvidia)
Ericsson is using Nvidia's Omniverse to better understand how to lay out 5G cellular antennas. (Image: Nvidia)

Finally, Nvidia showed off how its Omniverse is being used to help the company build out its data for its self-driving vehicle initiative. Using Ominverse, Nvidia is able to create real-world scenarios for virtual autonomous vehicles, and see how sensors including LiDAR and sonar will react out on the road.

The metaverse is still very much in its infancy, and the field is wide open for any company to come in and steal the spotlight away from their competitors.

For its part, Nvidia’s Omnivese will differ from Facebook, which is looking to create a new social networking experience, and Microsoft, which focuses on how the corporate world can use the metaverse (though the Xbox may eventually be brought in, too).

Which metaverse will be the most popular? Nvidia looks to have a solid jump on the competition at this point.

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