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The Future Is Now: “Now we can effortlessly interact with digital holographic objects that naturally blend into everyday life” With OTOY CEO Jules Urbach & Fotis Georgiadis

We are rapidly moving to a world of post-mobile immersive computing that will change how we produce, consume, and share media. While smartphones made computing ubiquitous, putting powerful computers literally in the pockets of billions of people, virtual and mixed reality media will drive new levels of immersion, where you will no longer be limited […]


We are rapidly moving to a world of post-mobile immersive computing that will change how we produce, consume, and share media. While smartphones made computing ubiquitous, putting powerful computers literally in the pockets of billions of people, virtual and mixed reality media will drive new levels of immersion, where you will no longer be limited by a screen. Imagine the creative possibilities of effortlessly interacting with digital holographic objects that naturally blend into everyday life. I think that is where we are heading, and has the potential to be a remarkable change in the way we communicate and exchange information.


I had the pleasure of interviewing Jules Urbach, CEO and Co-Founder of OTOY and the RNDR Network. He is a leading voice in the graphics industry, leading the development of cutting-edge capture, rendering, and streaming technologies for advanced computer-generated graphics and holographic media. In 2017, Jules launched the Render Token (RNDR) Blockchain network, providing the first peer-to-peer Graphics Processing Unit (GPU) rendering and 3D marketplace designed to democratize the creation and monetization of next generation holographic media.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

I was always fascinated by the convergence of film and video games, and felt that the magic each art form provided would eventually be built on the same set of tools in a platform that would be frictionless and immersive — something like the Star Trek Holodeck. Now that CG (computer graphics) in movies looks real using our tools, and is rendered on GPUs in real time on the artist’s desk, the next step is bringing this technology to games (as we are doing with integration in Unity and Unreal) and then leveraging the RNDR network to make this pipeline powerful enough to render holographic content on displays coming out in the next few years.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

One of the first meetings I had when I started OTOY 10 years ago was with Elon Musk at SpaceX. I showed Elon an early version of our rendering and streaming technology. He said he needed to ask his good friend John Carmack (now CTO of Oculus) to validate it more deeply. That connection led to an amazing and ongoing collaboration with John Carmack, and the technology I showed Elon a decade earlier ended up going into Oculus Social in 2016 and more recently in Facebook 360 volumetric video.

Can you tell us about the “Bleeding edge” technological breakthroughs that you are working on? How do you think that will help people?

OTOY is pioneering an end-to-end technology pipeline for the creation and distribution of fully immersive virtual and mixed reality media. Our technology is cutting-edge in that it models the properties of light with full physical accuracy, creating unparalleled levels of photorealism. We are in the process of integrating our render engine, OctaneRender, into leading game engines like Unity3D and UnrealEngine, which will allow real-time experiences to be rendered with the same level of detail and quality as CGI in films. Additionally, with Facebook and RED Digital, we are developing the Manifold volumetric virtual reality camera for six-degrees-of-freedom (6-DOF) fully immersive cinematic experiences, and we have been collaborating with Light Field Lab to render glasses-free light fields for their holographic displays.

These new forms of media have the potential to be highly empowering, allowing artists, scientists, and designers new tools to visualize concepts, increase understanding, and realize their imaginations. No longer are you are you limited by a screen, you can now bring your ideas to life with fully immersive interactive experiences. We think this may open up new ways of learning — like 3D medical visualization, intuitive gene modeling, and new forms of simulations for things like atomic particle collisions and galaxy formation. It will also create new forms of immersive storytelling that bring audiences closer to a subject, bridging cultural divides and increasing empathy by literally putting you in other people’s shoes to feel firsthand their experiences or ideas.

How do you think this might change the world?

We are rapidly moving to a world of post-mobile immersive computing that will change how we produce, consume, and share media. While smartphones made computing ubiquitous, putting powerful computers literally in the pockets of billions of people, virtual and mixed reality media will drive new levels of immersion, where you will no longer be limited by a screen. Imagine the creative possibilities of effortlessly interacting with digital holographic objects that naturally blend into everyday life. I think that is where we are heading, and has the potential to be a remarkable change in the way we communicate and exchange information.

Keeping “Black Mirror” in mind can you see any potential drawbacks about this technology that people should think more deeply about?

Privacy of user data needs to be respected and guarded preciously by all involved in advancing this technology, which will be even more embedded into our lives. I have hope that we will get there, as we are seeing efforts to address it seriously (such as in the EU).

Was there a “tipping point” that led you to this breakthrough? Can you tell us that story?

We are pioneering cutting-edge physically accurate GPU-based media that has been accelerated by the increase in GPU performance and the mainstreaming of blockchain technology. For over a decade, we have been focused on GPU-based technology, seeing the potential for 40–100x increases in speed and efficiency. In the past year, as the Ethereum blockchain has become more mainstream, millions of GPU’s have now been connected in a peer-to-peer network. We want to now use these compute resources to render out the next generation of holographic and light field media, which requires exponentially more GPU rendering scale. Additionally, with the release of new raytracing GPU’s this year, the same cinematic GPU rendering used for Hollywood visual effects can be used to drive real-time interactive game experiences. With this increase in scale and in speed, we are rapidly reaching a tipping point where holographic media — previously in the realm of science fiction — can become a reality.

What do you need to lead this technology to widespread adoption?

Producing holographic media currently is only possible for large studios with enormous resources, but widespread adoption will require making the technology more accessible to smaller artists, students, researchers and designers. We need to reduce the costs and increase scale in order to make holographic media widely available, and ultimately democratized. This is what we are doing with the RNDR Blockchain network, pooling GPU resources around the world to increase the amount of rendering power and ultimately, reduce costs. This will allow anyone with a creative vision to more easily and efficiently realize their imaginations.

What have you been doing to publicize this idea? Have you been using any innovative marketing strategies?

We rely on our organic community to spread the word and share knowledge. You can follow us on Telegram, Twitter and RocketChat at RenderToken, or join our OctaneRender Facebook group, where users are sharing the latest 3D works, and advice.

When we do marketing, we usually draw on our community. For example, in collaboration with Oculus, we launched the Render the Metaverse competition to our user base, providing free rendering credits for artists to create 18K VR scenes using OctaneRender. The results blew us away and showcased the power of our technology to create remarkable new immersive experiences when put in the hands of the creative community around the world.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

Ari Emanuel, CEO of Endeavor, has been my friend, mentor and business partner for almost a decade and a half. He believed in my vision from the very start, when few others did. OTOY wouldn’t be here today, and I wouldn’t have this amazing company and team, if it weren’t for Ari.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

I wake up every day and see the most beautiful personal and commercial artwork posted online from the many thousands of creators that show what they do with OctaneRender every day — both to make a living and to make what they love. Octane is now free to millions of users of Unity, and we are leveraging RNDR to further democratize access to nearly unlimited and inexpensive compute and rendering power for all.

What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)

1) As a coder working towards a vision for this company over many years, scaling the engineering team hasn’t been a simple process, even with more resources. It is important to delegate to people who are completely in sync with your long term vision, and no one else.

2) Holographic commercial displays will be real by 2020. I thought they were much further out, and now that I know they are here (our partner Light Field Lab is making them at scale next year), it’s changing many of our product and development priorities.

3) If you plan to start a company that has a fundamental long term strategic vision that may defy short term expectations, make sure to only involve investors and partners who share this philosophy. I didn’t do that in my first company in the 90’s (where I was co-founder but not CEO), and the lack of long-term planning, and the focus on short-term profits, didn’t allow it to get to the place it needed to be in the long term. That experience made me understand and trust my instincts better with business, and was fundamental to my decision to structure OTOY the way I did.

4) Scaling GPU power on the public cloud (AWS/Google) is going be slow and hit a limit. That was not clear to me in 2013 when we partnered with Amazon and helped them design and launch the G2 GPU instance on EC2. I thought we would have all the GPU power we needed as our business grew, but there are hard limits to the velocity of how fast the public cloud can add GPU capacity. My initial plan, pre-2013, was to use decentralized GPU power if needed, and I went back to this idea last year when we launched RNDR. We now have more GPU power for rendering than AWS and GCE on the network, and I suspect it will grow much more once we are out of beta. I might have moved earlier down this path had I known what I know now.

5) Ethereum is not going to scale the way you want by the time you get to RNDR phase 4 (next year). Transaction times are slow, and it’s clear we need to think about moving to a different blockchain in the long term.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

In the face of exponential growth in automation and AI, we should never undervalue the power and importance of the human spirit, it’s ingenuity and it’s creative energy at the center of a society. That’s why empowering and democratizing technology that fosters and projects human creative power is so important, in the face of more and more transactions across society, labor and work moving out of direct human supervision and to autonomous systems.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

My mother wanted me to go to Harvard University, and that was important to me in high school, and I thought that was the measure of my future trajectory. I got in, but only because I sent the Harvard admissions board some of my early work I did with video compression and rendering while in High School (they were skeptical that this technology was possible, so my college counselor pushed me to send them some evidence, which I did by showing them the source code). I realized after I got in, that the only reason this turned out well for me, was because I had done something that was surprising and innovative and defied the school’s expectations of what was possible. I decided that summer not to go to Harvard, and instead keep exploring what I could create by following my intuition and imagination, and working as hard as I could to make it real. For 25 years that’s been my life now, and I’ve never looked back.

Some very well known VCs read this column. If you had 60 seconds to make a pitch to a VC, what would you say?

Reality is rendered. Photons bouncing around the universe and connecting every point in space-time is the baseline conduit by which we understand information and reflect on our lives, our place in the world and each other. RNDR is a pure expression of such a system. It tokenizes the one thing I think may be a safer long term metric of value than bits, fuel, or fiat currency — a virtual ray of light, with its path weighted by human intent and utility on the blockchain. If we assume that existing technology platforms continue to evolve out of legacy web, mobile and app models, towards volumetric, ambient and decentralized mesh networks and services, a system like RNDR will have to evolve to support it. I think that is inevitable.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

Jules Urbach Twitter

OTOY Twitter

RNDR Twitter

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