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The statuesque Helfer, who plays the Cylon character Number Six on the Sci-Fi Channel's Battlestar Galactica television series, helped Jen-Hsun close his keynote with a discussion of the demands on actors in CGI-heavy shows like BSG. Clad in a clingy red dress that drew whistles from the crowd, Helfer joked amicably with Jen-Hsun, who himself appeared in the jeans and t-shirt the famously non-buttoned down CEO favors.
"Was she tall or what?" he joked following the keynote at San Jose's Center for Performing Arts.
Earlier in the two-and-a-half hour presentation, the Nvidia boss chatted with a succession of guest technologists specializing in visual computing fields such as digital prototyping and image processing, as well as technologies like parallel computing that have emerged from GPU advances.
Judging from audience reaction, the most popular keynote moments aside from Helfer's turn were demos of a free South Korean social networking game that generates income via "micro-transactions" for small user upgrades, and Jeff Han's presentation of a 100-inch multi-touch display featuring the hands-on multi-touch user interface technology developed by Han's company, Perceptive Pixel.
Meanwhile, Jen-Hsun's keynote reference to rival Intel's famous Moore's Law-based product strategy was clearly more than just an off-hand remark. The Nvidia boss compared the NVISION conference to the recently concluded Intel Developer Forum in San Francisco several times during a post-keynote interview session with media and seemed eager to play up Nvidia's competition with its larger rival.
"We didn't call this 'the Nvidia Developer Forum,'" Jen-Hsun joked. He also claimed that Santa Clara, Calif.-based Intel and Advanced Micro Devices of Sunnyvale, Calif. had been invited to the first NVISION event but declined.
Jen-Hsun also addressed Intel's latest discrete graphics initiative, code named Larrabee. The chip giant recently presented a paper on new graphics technology it plans to release in the next year or two at the SIGGRAPH industry conference in Los Angeles. Intel's main argument for Larrabee revolves around the programming benefits it claims will be gained from building GPUs on the x86 architecture, particularly in Web-centric applications.
Intel currently produces its own on-board graphics engines -- Intel executives are quick to point out the chip giant "ships the most graphics in the world" -- but has long left the discrete graphics market to be battled over by Nvidia and AMD's ATI division.
"Larrabee hasn't shipped so you don't know what it is and I don't know what it is," Jen-Hsun said. "That said, by the time it does ship, Nvidia's technology will be so far advanced it won't matter."
He shrugged off Intel's claims that the bulk of Internet applications were built to run on Intel architecture (IA) microprocessors, making IA, or x86-based GPUs a natural fit for visual computing programmers transferring traditionally client-based applications to hosted or "cloud computing" formats.