The future is being built today and hardware limitations should not be hindering you from being a part of the new digital renaissance. Founder of RNDR Token, Jules Urbach, sits with our hosts, Jeff Kelley, Eathan Janney, Josh Kriger to talk about the potential of GPU rendering in the metaverse. Jules believes that RNDR puts the power of GPU rendering at your fingertips at a fraction of the cost and speed of in-house rendering. Jules shares his views on the role of GPU-based rendering solutions in revolutionizing the digital creation process. The Render Network creates a much more efficient, powerful, and widely-scalable rendering network and Jules is here to elaborate the technicalities in its beauty.
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Jules Urbach Of RNDR Network, Providing Distributed GPU Rendering On The Blockchain, Plus $6B Jan All-Time High NFT Trading Volume, And More…
This episode features guest Jules Urbach, Founder and CEO of OTOY and RNDR. The Render Network is the leading provider of decentralized GPU-based rendering solutions, revolutionizing the digital creation process. Jules sets the strategic vision for the company and is the Chief Architect of the company’s tech roadmap. He is widely hailed as a pioneer in computer graphics, streaming and 3D rendering with over 25 years of industry experience. Prior to OTOY, Jules created the web’s first 3D video game platform and licensed the software to Macromedia, Disney, Warner Bros., Nickelodeon, Microsoft, Hasbro and AT&T.
Jules has written and spoken extensively about blockchain tech to transform creative economies and realize the potential of an open, decentralized metaverse and is the author of one of the first patents for decentralized GPU computing, initially published in 2009. In his role as CEO, he has overseen the development of partnerships and technology integrations with the world’s leading media and entertainment companies like Apple, Google, Microsoft, Endeavor, Disney, Epic Games, Unity 3D and NVIDIA and has led the growth of the Render Network to surpass the combined GPU rendering power of the combined public cloud. That sounds pretty easy, Jules.
It’s not surprising that Jules was listed as one of the top 50 futurists in the world in an article that our friend Rachel was also in, if I’m not mistaken.
I did not know, but it’s all in a day’s work. It has been a long journey. I started doing all this frankly from high school and the early ’90s. For me, it has been one long continuous journey exploring graphics, democratizing content creation, hoping, wishing and helping build the future of the metaverse, which is everything can look real like it does in films. The creative narrative skills that you previously needed are democratized and video games. If you make those look real, then you start to get into the whole metaverse simulation theory aspect of creativity and even living in. It has been decades of fascinating developments. Frankly, I’m proud of all our work as a company and a decentralized organization with RNDR.
I would love to learn specifically about the genesis of OTOY and RNDR. If you can get us back to the origin stories of how those two kicked off, that would be great.
I started OTOY in my mom’s house in 2002. When I registered for OTOY, I got the domain name. Prior to that, I was working on 3D graphics and video games. My background is right out of high school, I wanted to make games. My first game at eighteen was called Hell Cab. It was a CD-ROM game. Time Warner published it. It came out right around the time that Myst did. Shortly thereafter, my goal for video games was to change the industry, not necessarily to make games. I wanted to create tools and technology that could do that. The first thing that I did shortly after Hell Cab was I used the browser mechanism system in Netscape and Internet Explorer to embed a 3D engine. That’s where we started to do games for AT&T, Warner Bros. and Nickelodeon.
On Fandom.com, there’s a whole 3D Groove section. That was my company before OTOY. A lot of the people that worked with me in 3D Groove, including our CTO, Charlie Wallace and Clay Sparks, the Chief Creative Officer, have been with me for this journey. OTOY was meant for me to start from scratch and build a company, it was initially just a few of us, that could change graphics technology. My real vision with OTOY was I wanted to bring GPU rendering, a Pixar quality, which at that time meant things that would go into a final movie or something you’ve seen in a $200 million tentpole. I wanted to have that run in a graphics card, make it 40-times faster and 100-times cheaper and ultimately make it run on the cloud and in real-time. From that perspective, OTOY succeeded.
We have been selling a GPU render called Octane. It was the first GPU production render on the market. It’s to this day used by everyone from J.J. Abrams to Pak and hundreds of thousands of artists doing NFTs. The openings of most TV shows are done in Octane. It’s amazing. We revolutionized the CG industry by paving the way for almost everyone, including RenderMan. Pixar’s RenderMan is doing a GPU version mostly because we opened the door to that. We have had success with Apple and partnered with them, showing Octane running on the new Macs and on iPhones and iPads. The future of GPU rendering from all of the goals that I had when I started OTOY has come to pass. The story of how we have grown and got here and how RNDR came from that is worth a second leg.
The big thing here is the recognition of the ability to envision this capability for rendering and being able to execute against it. I would love to know more about how that came to be. How do you have the confidence coupled with this skillset that you developed over so many years to be able to translate this vision into reality specifically for OTOY? Before we get to RNDR, it seems so ambitious to set that out, have that vision, go out and execute against it knowing that it’s a several-year venture to get to the spot where things start to look real. We’re just getting there. I would love to know where does that come from?
It does come from a passion on my part to see the product and know in my head how it could work. GPU rendering came from that because I knew that if you run the laws of physics in light and a simulator, you should end up with something that looks like a photo. The rendering equation was written long before I started OTOY. My frame of reference was like, “Let’s not worry about computing power. Let’s think about what’s available and how we can do this.”
RNDR Token: The big thing here is the recognition of the ability to envision; this capability for rendering and actually being able to execute against it.
Two things occurred to me right off the bat that was interesting. One is you have video game hardware that’s programmed for simple but faster real-time graphics. You have tons of those video cards that are out there latent in people’s machines. You had things like SETI@home at the time that were paying people. You would run this screensaver and solve offline work. I’ve harnessed both of those things as I was starting OTOY. First of all, it’s GPU rendering.
The way that OTOY got started as a company was through a longtime friend, collaborator and business partner, Ari Emanuel. If anybody has ever seen the show Entourage, Ari Gold is based on him and his relationship with Mark Wahlberg. He came to my house when I was starting OTOY almost in year two. He saw what I was doing and said, “I want to help make this happen. I’ll introduce you to everyone.” The next thing I knew, I met J.J. Abrams, David Fincher, and James Cameron within a year.
I was showing the concepts that I had for how GPU rendering could work. In the early years, a lot of people were saying, “You can’t do GPU rendering because ray tracing, which is different from rasterization for PlayStation games, wasn’t possible. You can’t do that because anything on a GPU needs to be run in parallel. You need to do a thousand things at once. You can’t do it one after the other.” Every single big break that OTOY had in its early years was because I’m a GPU guy.
I was writing shader code that could do ray tracing and figured those pieces out. That broke through the whole mechanism. Once I started down that path, I kept pushing forward with it. I could see the product. In the early days, they didn’t have any financing. It was mostly me and a couple of guys. I did 95% of the coding in the early years of the company enough to prove that all the pieces, including running GPU rendering on the cloud and streaming it with low latency.
If you look at all the pieces of OTOY’s tech, the prototypes were written by me years ago. While we have a team now and the company has been successful, we productize Octane as a sub like Adobe Photoshop. We have tons of user growth that have certainly funded all of our investment and capital into other longer-term projects in recent years, but we’ve also raised money. All of that came about because I imagined a future where GPUs, one, would carry on Moore’s Law and two, we have a cloud of GPUs that I could monetize for decentralized distributed computing.
I also saw many other things. I had other things when I was trying to do cloud rendering and low latency. If you remember back in the 2008 and 2009 days when OnLive, Gaikai and OTOY were at the beginning of cloud gaming, people thought it wasn’t going to work. It wasn’t possible. I had tested out and written my own server and low latency protocol. All those things did work. We got our first investment from Autodesk to build streaming apps. That technology is now being used on RNDR for streamable NFTs and all these other elements.
I still do that and think about 10 or 20 years from now. I see holographic display panels, terabits per second speeds and all these things. I think about what I would do if I had the power and know that that’s going to happen at some point. I build for that and I’ve been pushing the company towards that. There have also been many things that have inspired me as well. I want to see open standards as a creator and somebody that wants to create art with my own tools. I want to see an open metaverse and something like the open web.
He’s giving such deep insight into his aspirations for the open web and why it didn’t quite happen. He didn’t put a buy button in Mozilla that would have changed everything, but he possibly forced the iPhone, which was initially built on the open web until the App Store was created to leverage that. There are so many different pieces in my journey here, but the thing that has always given me the confidence to move forward is I don’t have a problem writing code in my head on hardware that doesn’t exist yet, thinking about that scale and working backward from there.
There’s so much to unpack there but let me ask a specific question as it relates to NFTs. What was your first exposure to it? How did that change your thinking as it related to the work you were already doing?
I was thinking about NFTs, not in that specific form but in terms of the actual ERC-721 token. Objectively, my first real experience was Mike and people calling me up and being like, “I sold $1 million in a Pak. This is crazy.” There’s another artist that uses our tools to clue me into this. We both had this a-ha moment, “They’re buying a JPEG. We should do something to shore that up,” which is why we have RNDR Archives all of the people’s work. Pak’s NFTs, the carbon ones, are rendered on RNDR.
The seriousness of doing something objective around the NFT space came around November of 2020 when people’s stuff started kicking off. I realized that we had almost a mandate to do something for artists, developers, and the industry. NFTs and the word metaverse created this crazy gold rush. It’s like somebody has hit the worst of the dot-com bubble days. There are a lot of things that people try out as NFTs that dilute the value of what great artwork is.
There are amazing NFTs. This is fundamental to the future of art. I was thinking though about the space as early as 2017 when I was writing the whitepaper for the Render Network. First, we should discuss what RNDR does. RNDR was an ERC-20 utility token for GPU compute power. However, I was seeing that there are four phases. Once we replace all of Amazon’s compute, I can get this working and everyone is fused around the network, it’s not just compute power that RNDR is providing.
It’s going to be this provenance for IP. If you create something on the Render Network and do a render, all of the source files and original assets, whoever uploads, owns and mixes the model, all of that gets restored and received on-chain. It’s incredibly powerful. I was like, “This is going to be some funnel for royalties.” That was for NFTs, specifically around ERC-721 or ERC-1155 tokens and all that. I was thinking about that and RNDR is still fundamentally that value.
When you get into the discussion specifically about NFTs and how they intersect with RNDR, I’ll share my thoughts about how we are nowhere near the point where we should be because we’re still selling, in some ways, simple pointers into things that are off-chain. I always wanted to have digital art, digital objects and something that would validate that. Some of those ideas predated crypto. I took that and decentralized PAINT tokens for ray tracing in 2009. The initial work on it was 2004.
This was before there was Bitcoin or anything like that. I was thinking ahead. It’s great that crypto occurred because it creates a value that everyone agrees with. You can have virtualized currency for anything and sometimes nothing. In the case of what we’re thinking about both art and utility, that has been great. It allowed us to get RNDR off the ground and scale it in a way that I don’t think would have been possible pre-Ethereum and pre-crypto.
It’s incredible to hear the way you’re thinking about this stuff. I might make a special request to Jeff and Josh that we have more episodes where we could hang out with you and something will rub off on us or something. This is incredible stuff. You alluded to it. We talked a little bit about RNDR and how it intersects with NFTs, but then you said there’s more. There’s a new direction that you want to go with this. It goes a lot deeper than it might be obvious at the moment. Can you speak a little bit about your vision for NFTs and RNDR as we move forward here?
RNDR Token: What’s really interesting is, if you get rid of the monetization part of it, the entity itself has value because the artist says this image represents the work.
Where we are at for a lot of NFT is you have an asset and some variation of templates for smart contracts. A lot of things are some simple media files. In a lot of the marketplaces, you can just upload. If it’s fancy as glTF or maybe it’s an iFrame or a webpage, it’s a static thing. You can create some interesting things around that. Speaking from the experience of NFTs that have been done with our tools, which somebody checked, about $800 million worth of NFTs were created with OTOY tech. Some of those are directly rendered on RNDR. A lot of that is Beeple and Pak. There are thousands of artists that have done well.
Almost with all cases and this was where we started with Beeple. They take the output of what’s coming out of RNDR, which is essentially an image. That gets uploaded to Nifty’s or something, you sell that as an NFT and maybe there’s something else to it. What’s interesting is that if you get rid of the monetization part of it, then the NFT itself has value because the artist says this image represents the work. What’s even more interesting is if the image is rendered on-chain. We have proof for RNDR. All of RNDR’s value comes from actual work that is coming off of a ledger. We have our ledger. It preexists as with decentralized.
Every asset 3D model is hashed. You can look it up. That’s for AR, for example, if you wanted to have that on-chain. The rendering itself is validated by decentralized nodes. The job of creating the image is an NFT. We have yet to hook that up to the marketplace because large marketplaces like OpenSea are too simple. We can have a receipt that shows this image done on RNDR. What I’m trying to do with Beeple, other artists and even our relationship with Solana and Metaplex, is we need to rethink what an NFT could be.
For that to happen, we need to connect the actual RNDR job, not just its output as an NFT, so that owning it triggers RNDR. That can generate a procedural cavalcade of things where it’s the people rendering two things. Early NFTs was whoever won the presidential election, you would get it from a video, but you did the videos twice. We have people using RDNR to render 5,000 different images for each collection. That’s great. RNDR can deliver all those things and give you that computing power. What would be more interesting is on a purchase based on some oracle, RNDR is triggered. Those tools are what we’re working on.
Artists have been doing interesting things with that for a while, but we need a partner where I can have those NFTs that are essentially pure render jobs and, shortly after that, real-time streams and virtual worlds where the same logic is applied. I need a partner where I can put that into a marketplace and that is willing to work with me in the royalty streams for that. Out of all of the ones we have been talking to over the years, that partner turned out to be Metaplex and Solana. I’ve had a great relationship with Raj and Anatoly, who founded Solana and entered deep into this.
Their open-mindedness around how did they find how this works is why I went to Lisbon in November 2021 and did that whole presentation around rendering the metaverse with Solana. With that, now that you have Solana NFTs going on to OpenSea and others, this will help push NFTs into a much more interesting space. Doing something procedural and mixing with NFTs is kind of a 3D model and you put something in Decentral. That, to me, is not what this is. If you want, I have true collaborative workflows and something where 100 people contribute to an NFT and get paid accordingly.
These are some of the things that we want to figure on Metaplex with Solana. It’s not just on Metaplex. It would work in Magic Eden and other places. There’s the whole concept of real-time NFT. If you go to OTOY.com, you can go to a menu called Stream, which shows our streaming tech. You can have Blender as streaming, Chrome and Octane itself as software, and also a bunch of unreal projects that were done with our tools. Those are the things that I want you to be able to build on RNDR and then livestream.
In other words, all the assets would both have the same validation and royalty checkpoints that we have for an offline procedural render. That’s how NFTs and the metaverse should work. Certainly, with Solana as a partner, where we can test this, it will be exciting. We need to hook that up. Once those things are even live and a few of those types of NFTs are available, the conversation will get people to explore as artists. Creators had to leverage this tech. That’s what the potential of NFTs and the metaverse desperately needs.
The team at Solana reached out to me and said they have a Hacker House in LA coming up. Are you going to be involved in that?
I’m aware of it. I’ve got a schedule that’s pending. I might show up around February 5th or 6th, 2022. We always hosted it with them. We made it to our own with them down the line. We’re still building the toolset. We’ve got some artists that are working with us on beta testing some of those pieces that I mentioned. Solana seems amazing. There’s a lot more. I’ve been talking about glTF, which is a standard 3D JPEG format that you can drop into Metaplex or the other marketplaces. I’m working as part of the glTF of the working group. We have been looking at bringing in extensions to glTF that will allow you to hook into RNDR.
RNDR itself isn’t just OTOY software. We brought in competing RNDR engines. We have Arnold from Autodesk. Redshift from Maxon is also coming to RNDR. We’re working up Unreal. The idea of creating an open marketplace and open system is pretty important. There are open standards out there that, with a little bit of tender loving care, might turn into something that could leverage and help push this forward. It’s not just us doing the work and showing what needs to be done. Those are all intersectional conversations happening with Solana and others. We’re talking to everyone as well. We’re not focused just on the Solana side.
I have the difficult challenge of asking about your roadmap. I feel like this entire episode has been about your roadmap. You mentioned a couple of partners. Are there any more specific products that we haven’t covered yet that are worth mentioning and any other types of partnerships that are evolving as you’re looking at ways to add value to the space?
It’s worth mentioning the Metaverse Archive projects. We’ve got three of those that we announced in 2021. There are several reasons why those exist. One is in every single one of the cases, I know the artist or creator involved either personally or their families. We’ve got people’s archives, which came out of that very first conversation, “How do we make NFTs more than just a JPEG?” All of the people’s work is done in Octane and our rendering software. It’s putting together rendered jobs and the ground truth of this work, not necessarily for sales and NFT but almost as a zero addition.
It’s something that is on-chain that can be used to instantiate NFTs, which all of NFTs are. They’re never the original work. Even if we were to give somebody a rendered job, it’s better to put that in a vault and have it as your life’s work. That’s your value as an artist in terms of, “This is my filmography and art historiography.” We’re doing that with Mike. It’s easy because a lot of his work is done in 3D and our tools. It applies easily to RNDR.
The other two projects are the Roddenberry Archive. I grew up in the Roddenberry household. My best friend’s dad was Gene Roddenberry. I know the family well and Rod Roddenberry, his son, my best friend, was an investor in OTOY. We have been working on archiving things and building projects for years. It got a lot more serious years ago. He has been interested in having rendered the source where all of the digitization of his father’s materials would go.
Even better, with funding from the Roddenberry Estate, we have established a team led by the team that worked on the show with Gene to build all the assets from the show and every single shot list practically on RNDR. That also isn’t for sale. It’s for reference. It’s something that we could imagine being used for something like the Smithsonian. The Smithsonian has a physical exhibit with the 11-foot Enterprise. This could be a digital version of that.
That is how I imagine the metaverse also has. If you wanted to know and utilize something from the Roddenberry Archive to describe, do something or play an episode of Star Trek back in holographic form, those are the things that we’re doing there. The third project is Alex Ross. He is one of my good friends. He is best known for doing most of the major design work for Marvel for decades. He’s an amazing comic artist and a close friend of mine for years. Thanks to him and a couple of writers, I’m in the Marvel Universe as a character.
RNDR Token: The potential of NFTs to get people to explore as artists and creators and leverage this tech is what the metaverse desperately needs.
We’re taking all of his work and turning those into 3D assets, which covered tons of Marvel and DC history. Having a shared ground truth reference layer in the metaverse for these projects is super important. We wouldn’t be in a position to push open standards and how NFTs could work if we didn’t have an idea of how the artwork itself could leverage that. Those projects are exciting. There’s a lot of great work happening in the Roddenberry Archive. To retell what I was showing in Lisbon, I was showing how we’re bringing back actual shots with characters in there.
That’s complicated, but it leverages RNDR in the most amazing of ways. Lastly, we have another partnership with Light Field Lab. They’re building holographic display panels. That, to me, is one of those incredible endpoints other than goggles for AR and biometric experiences. True holographic displays without any glasses are needed, as shown on Star Trek Holodeck are going to be a thing. It might be later this decade, but the technology is there. RNDR ten years from now would for sure be powering that, which is a whole topic in and of itself.
How far away are folks reading from being able to take their childhood home, science lab or art studio and turning it into this three-dimensional world that people can access that they can show their children? Are we there? Is that readily available? We have a good friend, Scott Page, that’s doing some of these projects. He’s working with Sue Wong on her house.
She has the most amazing and beautiful house in Beverly Hills, a testament to history. Jimi Hendrix has played there. I think of the average person who has some cool memories in their home and experiences that they want to live on forever. How far away are we from being able to help them out with these opportunities in a seamless and not too expensive and technologically complicated way?
We’re close. You’re also talking about degrees of quality. When you’re talking about preserving your home, you can take pictures and movies of your home with your iPhone. It used to be that you had to go buy a physical camera. That doesn’t mean that you’re Geoffrey Unsworth and doing a Kubrick film with it. The idea of scanning your home in 3D is like ever since Apple put the LiDAR in the phones and iPads. You’ve got a bunch of apps that can do a pretty good job that.
You have Matterport. There are tons of real estate listings and even sets where people use Matterport to scan in the thing pasted on the web and download the glTF. We’re getting to the point where basic photogrammetry from most devices that are already owned by you is getting to be fairly easy. It’s not trivial and as simple as shooting a video or an image. You have to do a bit more work. What might be the solution? Maybe it’s a drone that’s like a Roomba that does it all for you. You can order from Amazon and you’re done with it.
That is doable, whether it’s something everyone wants to spend money on versus Apple or another getting what you can do inside of a phone or possibly even a wearable and capturing the environment more granularly. The stuff we’re doing for the Roddenberry Archive is interesting because we have physical assets, locations, and things we have done scanning. We have LightStage. That’s what we do for film, television, all the Marvel movies and most of the DC movies.
We scan in those actors digitally in a facility here and it gets you back something that is a perfect recreation of that. That tech is going to come to everyone at some point, maybe in 5 or 6 years. We have that fidelity. We have learned that for environments, you can scan something in, but it’s even better to have AI figure out what the object is and then have artists theme that up and model that. You have AI itself that’s so good. That’s where deepfakes come from.
You’re going to have deephomes where you can take a bunch of images, old movies and even movies that have been out there where there was no photogrammetry work done and be able to extract that information. That’s coming. That’s going to be fairly powerful. It’s going to be something that will merge with some good rendering software and inverse rendering pieces that we’re adding. It’s going to be much more doable in the next few years.
2023 might be a tipping point, especially with all the metaverse attention about, “Everything needs to be ready to go in 3D.” That’s going to be a forcing function. Our goal is to provide the same way we do with rendering the best possible tools so that you don’t have to be in a high-end shop. You can use your iPad and phone. We’ve got the software cloud services to make all of that work well. You can even connect with artists through our network to improve on that.
There are so many cool things happening. I’m curious, though. Jules, where do you draw your inspiration from? When you look at, in particular, the NFT space, is there something that gets you jazzed like a company, an idea or a product that’s out there that you get excited about?
I’ll be honest. The artists doing the work in our software get me the most excited. If it weren’t for Pak and people using our tools, it wouldn’t be the same thing. Star Trek is a big inspiration for me. There’s a reason why I’m personally invested in the Roddenberry Archive. I do imagine that utopian thing where people could make money being creative. They don’t have to worry about things. That is something that I want to see happen.
What’s amazing about the NFT space is the artists that I met. When I was in New York for the NFT.NYC that was here in the US, there’s a seventeen-year-old person sitting next to me who learned about Octane and sold a $1 million NFT with it. I was always hoping that the tools we would have would enable people to do things technically and be financially independent if possible. Every success that I see in the NFT space coming from some portion of our toolchain is inspiring.
As far as creative stuff goes, there are so many things that are being done towards real-time, especially as people get much more creative in how they sell their NFTs. Deadmau5 is doing his world. Everyone is doing their own little world where you buy the NFTs within their world. That’s why we need streamable NFTs and the Solana partnership so we can at least get those things on-chain and let them do that. A lot of them are downloading Unreal executables where it’s a simple glTF thing. I want to blow that open.
There are a lot of artists that we’re talking to about enabling that. They’ve got the art division for those pieces. Ultimately, even with the Roddenberry Archive, the idea of exploring the Enterprise in each era and each year is something that needs to be a streamable NFT. You could download an NFT and buy yourself something on-chain where the data is there. It loads up and you can view an experience. Seeing those pieces come together in the next few months is super inspiring to me.
Metaplex’ team agility is also why this is all possible. If we were doing the tech and we didn’t have a marketplace partner that can help us move everything out of the way and make it all happen, that would be a lot harder and a lot further out there. I’m grateful for that. Raj inspired me a lot. His vision for Solana is pretty much aligned with my vision for the metaverse. We’re thinking along with the same ways, which has been great.
We will be keeping a close eye on what you’re up to. You had your finger on the pulse of so many amazing advancements here that we’re seeing come to fruition. I can’t wait for what’s next. We would like to take a step back and get your personal perspective on some questions. They’re fun questions that we call Edge Quick Hitters to let our readers get to know you a little bit better and some of your experiences in life. We’re looking for short single-word or few-word responses, but maybe we will go a little deeper here and there. Question number one, what is the first thing you remember ever purchasing in your life?
RNDR Token: There are open standards that are out there that with a little bit of tender, loving care might actually turn into something that could leverage and help push things forward.
It’s Greedo, the Kenner Star Wars action figure.
That’s solid. Do you still have ahold of that thing?
I do. I have all my toys. The reason the company is called OTOY.
Too many of my Star Wars figures were taken out by my BB gun, unfortunately. That’s a bad move on my part. Question number two, what is the first thing you remember ever selling in your life?
The first thing I remember selling was my video game. I created a video game at sixteen. It never came out. It was one of the products between Hell Cab and another one that didn’t quite make it through there. It was called Rivers of Dawn. It was sold to Virgin Interactive, which went out of business. I remember being proud that I was getting money for that. There are things that I had done before I was a teenager. I created this thing and a large company like Virgin is buying it. I remember that distinctly. Certainly, as an impression of something I sold, that did sink in.
How special is that as a kid especially? You make something and realize, “Somebody is willing to pay me for this thing that I did.” That’s mind-blowing. Question number three, what is the most recent thing you purchased?
It’s Star Trek: The Art. It’s a beautiful book that I purchased to get a reference for the Roddenberry Archive. This arrived and it’s a great book. It’s beautiful. It’s got all the making up of the motion picture. I am going back and buying a lot more physical books. I know I can’t get some of these copies online. I’ve been leafing through it earlier. There are some beautiful things in there. It’s that era of Stanley Kubrick, Spielberg and Lucas getting started from ’79. It was almost the culmination of a lot of those things. You had Douglas Trumbull, who did a lot of the special effects on that. Prior to that, there were 2001 and other films.
Considering what they had to work with, there are some special feats there. Question number four, what is the most recent thing you sold?
Other than selling somebody a license to Octane, which isn’t me personally selling something, I don’t know. I have not recently put anything up on eBay or anything like that. I would have to say generically it’s a license to one of the software products we make. I have some people on it. I’ve individually talked to all of our customers and potential customers. I’ve convinced a couple personally to go and get an Octane license. I can take a little bit of credit for one of those sales.
That’s a sale if I’ve ever heard one. Question five, what is your most prized possession?
The cover of that Marvel Comics with me on it. I was given the original. I tweeted about it. Alex Ross sent it to me. If I have a tombstone ever, that should go on it for sure. That is partly my most prized possession. I never intend to ever sell it. It is for life. I have a couple of other original Alex Ross paintings that he has done. I didn’t go ahead and buy them. He did them for projects we worked on together. Some of those are amazing. A couple of them are of me. That’s pretty high on the list of my prized possessions.
Question number six, if you could buy anything in the world, digital, physical, service and experience that’s currently for sale, what would it be? What do you have your eye on?
I always knew that the thing I wanted to buy or purchase ahead of the money was zettaflops with compute power so that I could power something like the metaverse. It has never been far from my mind. In a weird way, RNDR provided that. We have essentially unlimited computing power. There are items like the original Starship Enterprise, not in the Smithsonian but the one that Jeff Bezos has in his lobby for Blue Origin. I wouldn’t mind at some point buying that from him.
The things that I value in some ways are intangibles. Most of what I do through my companies and RNDR, which I consider to be an organization more than a company, is to fulfill some of the things I want most in the world. It’s not just about me personally. It’s about the ideals that I want to see for people creating things. Creating art in a vacuum or an island doesn’t make as much sense as being able to build in a medium that is shared and built on by others.
That’s very much how crypto art is evolving. That’s why it’s those zettaflops of computing power. I don’t see that happening without somebody coordinating that and making almost an open system for the metaverse. RNDR is ultimately succeeding in doing that, which is great. I don’t need to buy that. It seems to be self-organizing and emergently happening, which is fantastic.
Question number seven, if you could pass on one of your personality traits to the next generation, what would that be?
Being Zen about the future would be important. That’s something that I try to pass on to others as well. It’s Zen in a good way. The zero-sum game aspect of a lot of ventures, businesses and industries at some point is hurtful. There are not enough people that truly seem to care about open standards and open systems. Even most multitrillion-dollar companies came out of the open web. I have this Zen thing that this layer should be idealistically handled. That comes from a Zen approach to certain aspects of society. That would be my choice to pass on to others if I could.
Here’s a flipside of that question. If you could eliminate one of your personality traits from the next generation, what would that be?
It’s being outraged and mad at others without understanding that person’s life experience. I’ve done that. It’s something that I don’t like about myself. I’ve certainly worked on minimizing it because misunderstandings at existential levels don’t need to happen. When you’re looking at the people through their work and art and see that aspect of them, that is the flip side of it. There’s a lot of anger, snarkiness and lack of depth and understanding of who you’re mad at. Over the years, I’ve certainly grown a lot as a person in going through that and seeing the value of not doing that. That’s where Zen comes in. It’s eliminating that rage. Social media has been a huge accelerant and liquid fuel on that fire. That is unfortunate. With art, it’s less so. That’s something that I wish to see less of both in myself and others.
With that said, assume that everyone is doing the best that they can with their resources.
This one is a little bit easier. Question number nine, what did you do before joining us on the show?
I was playing around with the space stuff in the Roddenberry Archive in Octane. It’s the space station with the Enterprise that Star Trek III comes out of. One of the team members had finished the model and sent it over. I was spinning it around and sending notes back. That was what I was doing right before I jumped on with you.
Did they do a good job? Is it pretty close?
Question number ten, the last one, what are you going to do next after the show?
I have some notes for the Octane team and also for all the different people working within OTOY. I’ll work at this very desk. I usually spend about ten hours a day in this spot. I love working with the team. The RNDR team and organization are much bigger than OTOY. We’ve got a wonderful community of mods and others and soon, third-party building pieces. I engage a lot. We have a Facebook Group with almost 50,000 artists. I’m in there all the time answering these things. I live and breathe OTOY and RNDR. I’ll be doing that right after we’re done with this show, which is also part of that whole journey.
That’s pretty evident in having talked to you. We got a bonus question we’ve got to throw in this mix. What is your Marvel character’s superpower and how was it acquired?
RNDR Token: It’s great that crypto occurred because now it creates a value that everyone agrees on where you can have a virtualized currency for anything.
I was terribly disappointed that my character, Kevin Schumer, does not have any superpowers, but his uncle was the Spider-Man villain known as the Tinkerer. In the Marvel Universe, my character has created an app, gives tours and has a ton of awesome kits. He’s got a fantastic car that apparently is used by Captain Marvel to destroy the universe and also other stuff. My superpower is building an app, monetizing that in the Marvel Universe and occasionally fighting alongside Iron Man when there’s a threat to the entire universe. That was apparently part of my story arc in Marvel. It’s still ongoing. The last issue was just coming out.
We got that one out there for all our curious readers. That’s Edge Quick Hitters. Thanks so much for participating. It was great to hear your answers on that. The word on the street is we also have some hot topics to cover. Eathan, do you want to dive in?
Let’s hit it. “Monthly NFT trading volume reaches an all-time high of $6 billion in January 2022.” “Monthly NFT grew 129% in January 2022 relative to December 2021. Much of the increase is due to the latest contender in the NFT marketplace scene, LooksRare, which accumulated nearly $2 billion in volume after its launch on January 10th, 2022.”
I first noticed LooksRare when trying to purchase some other NFT and looking at the gas ethers on the Ethereum Etherscan. I said, “LooksRare, what’s that?” Sure enough, they were doing this generous or whatever you want to call it stunt where they were gifting people tokens for their trading volume on OpenSea. Also, those tokens pay you back as a member of the community for the success of LooksRare. They have taken a dive into this community-sourced platform.
There are a few things to unpack there. Number one, this was a pretty difficult month for the overall stock market and the crypto market and yet, NFT volume grew significantly. Certainly, it’s a testament to what’s to come in 2022. There are a lot of cool projects that came out and a lot of buildings have been happening in 2021. People have started to realize what all that building is going to manifest in 2022. People talk about the NFT bubble on some of these projects without utility. At the same time, that bubble burst. We’re going to see a cornucopia of NFT projects with real utility. Jules, what are your thoughts?
It’s always exciting to see different models apply to NFTs, including rewards and things like that. One of the things that I want to crack open is getting ticket-based NFTs to experiences in the metaverse. That is something that I feel is trilling ground. Also, within those experiences, it’s not just buying something that goes into your wallet or icon or whatever but also being able to take pictures and shoot. There are so many more interactive and participatory things but also have a rewards mechanism. In other words, if what you’re doing in interacting with an NFT object is unique and triggers other rewards that are some form of staking. I love that idea. There’s a lot to play with once we have the tools in place to make that easy for artists and creators to build on.
One of the interesting things about this is if you connect the growth of these assets versus stocks or even crypto tokens and things like that besides NFTs and look how that corresponds to what’s going on in the “news,” it’s fascinating. I don’t listen to it much, but I’m not seeing people talking about NFTs. Maybe they will talk about 1 or 2 on CNBC, Fox or these mainstream news channels. It’s fascinating to see these mainstream markets taking their hits. Even though it’s big in our consciousness, it’s an underground market growing behind the scenes.
Even when Pak did Merge and it was $91 million and put him as the number one living artist in the world, that was under-reported in a sense. There’s an awareness of Pak covered from his first Sotheby’s sale. Talking to Pak at school, whenever I have an email thread with him or he explains to me any of what he’s doing, it’s so intricately well-thought-out. You have $ASH and all these other things. It’s beautiful. It’s complex for a lot of artists to wrap their heads around, but as tools come out that make creativity even in that layer easier, we will see some interesting elements there.
Even Mike and people were putting out the email thread between the two of them or Pak and people did to get into NFTs. That became the first big splash. I look to Pak for the future of how NFTs work and how to monetize and think about these things. There’s such incredible creativity there. He is the Picasso of this age on the blockchain, especially for crypto art. He’s super inspiring and also massively influential on what people might try to do.
It’s continuing to grow, whether there’s something sexy for the media to cover or not. What’s happening with NFTs is truly revolutionary and evolutionary. That train has left the station. The trading volume is one metric of what’s happening there but there are many others. It’s a rocketship and we’re just at the very beginning. These are exciting times.
That’s enough for hot topics. This was a cool conversation. It’s about time to wrap up. Before we go, why don’t we make sure we find out from Jules where readers can go specifically to learn more about you and the projects you’re working on?
Thanks so much. We may be doing a little giveaway or a little swag bag of some fun OTOY stuff. Keep an eye out on our socials and we will give you all the deets around that. We’re excited about that. Thanks for the generosity, Jules. We appreciate it. We have reached the outer limit of the show. Thanks for exploring with us. We’ve got space for more adventures on this starship, so invite your friends and recruit some cool strangers that will make this journey all so much better. How? Go to iTunes, rate us, say something awesome, and then go to EdgeOfNFT.com to dive further down the rabbit hole.
Remember, we always invite you to co-create and build with us at the show. We’re unlocking a whole new way to connect and collaborate with us through our own NFT drops, Spirit Seeds, leading to Living Tree NFTs. It will light the way to our event, NFT LA, a one-of-a-kind immersive and unforgettable experience at LA live in Los Angeles from March 28th to the 31st, 2022. Check it out at NFTLA.live and move quickly on Early Bird tickets as they are selling fast. Lastly, be sure to read next time for more great NFT content. Thanks again for sharing this time with us.
- Basic Attention Token
- Magic Leap
- Light Field Lab
- Star Trek: The Art
- Monthly NFT trading volume reaches an all-time high of $6 billion in January 2022
- Facebook Group – Octane Render
- @JulesUrbach – Twitter
- @OTOY – Twitter
- @RenderToken – Twitter
- iTunes – Edge of NFT
- Spirit Seeds
About Jules Urbach
Jules sets the strategic vision for OTOY, and is the chief architect of the company’s technology roadmap. Widely hailed as a pioneer in computer graphics, streaming and 3D rendering with over 25 years of industry experience.
He made his first game, at 18, and went on to make the web’s first 3D video game platform and licensed the software to Macromedia, Disney, Warner Brothers, Nickelodeon, Microsoft, Hasbro and AT&T.
His life’s work has been to revolutionize 3D content capture, creation and delivery.