The tech world loves a buzzword or two. Right now, it's all about artificial intelligence. With chatbots like ChatGPT and Bard exploding onto the web and attracting massive amounts of users in a short amount of time, it's no surprise that so many manufacturers over at Taiwan's major tech show, Computex, had something to say about AI.
Phrases like "Tap into the future of AI" and "Future of Computing" were splayed across booth after booth. If not that, a portrait of the leather-clad Nvidia CEO, Jen-Hsun Huang, instead. Yes, Nvidia was the name on everyone's lips at Computex, and Jen-Hsun was a bit of a superstar about town. Everywhere he went, people clamoured for a selfie around him. Even Paul from our sister site Tom's Hardware managed to score one.
Nvidia's share price has skyrocketed for all the interest in the company, thanks to the AI boom. Since May, it has increased between 70-95%. It has something all of these companies want: number-crunching GPUs. Specifically, number-crunching GPUs with acceleration and an ecosystem to support new-fangled and ever-more-powerful artificial intelligence. Beyond the slew of mega-expensive AI acceleration systems just announced at the show, Nvidia's H100 GPUs are in high demand for the running of AI.
Nvidia didn't even have its own stand at Computex 2023, but it needn't have bothered. Its logo was plastered on booths from all manner of manufacturers, and Jen-Hsun got stage time for a 3,000 person strong keynote speech to kick things off.
I was sitting in the crowd for the event, and I can tell you that some there were hanging on every word. Especially when Jen-Hsun spoke Chinese. The Taiwanese crowd loved that. There wasn't much for PC gamers in that keynote speech, as it was Jen-Hsun's vehicle to really go HAM on AI, but there was the announcement of Nvidia ACE for Games. That's an AI-powered avatar creation tool in the works, and yeah, that's still more AI.
Beyond anything GeForce-related in Huang's keynote, there was another thing notable in its absence, or how little I saw of it, the week I was over in Taiwan for Computex 2023.
That's the metaverse.
Now I wasn't expecting as much metaverse material at Taiwan's tech show as, say, CES in Las Vegas. That really was filled to the brim with metaverse mentions back in 2022. But I walked around the show floor at Computex for two days, even going out of my way to just go looking for the metaverse one time, and never saw any sign of it.
Now I'm sure there was a company or five out there with something new to show for the metaverse (Inventec, for one, not that I saw them around). There was a forum dedicated to the metaverse, too, and maybe you could count some of the announcements Nvidia made surrounding Omniverse and digital twins as metaverse-adjacent. But in stunning contrast to how feral companies have been about the metaverse dream these past few years, there was very little sign of this all-virtual world we've been promised. What seemed to me marked a very swift changeover to all eyes being on AI.
But maybe Computex was just in that darkness-before-dawn moment of metaverse dreaming. After all, Apple just announced the Apple Vision Pro mixed reality headset, and thousands of miles away from Computex, Meta announced more details on the Meta Quest 3. It's down to hardware like this to keep the metaverse dream alive, and maybe it's the waiting for the metaverse to show up that's the problem. Manufacturers with increasingly short attention spans don't want to wait around, and are quickly shifting focus to AI, which is startlingly here and ready to use today.