Once known as a gaming-centric maker of graphics chips, Nvidia now applies its expertise in computationally intense applications to some of the digital world’s most ambitious new vistas, from virtual reality to autonomous driving to medical research. These technologies have "finally reached a level where we can solve some really challenging problems," says Nvidia founder and CEO Jen-Hsun Huang. Plus, by putting its products into sectors that Silicon Valley is betting on, Nvidia has expanded its business prospects—and delivered double-digit growth every quarter in 2016.
Few computing tasks are as demanding as VR, which Huang says "has to be beautiful and lightning fast." Last August, Nvidia introduced three graphics cards designed to give laptops the desktop-class performance they need to keep up with Facebook’s Oculus Rift headset.
Elon Musk announced last fall that all new Teslas will ship with the ability to pilot themselves. At the heart of that capability is Nvidia’s Drive PX 2, an onboard computer that’s been adopted by more than 80 companies and research labs to wrangle data from sensors and map routes.
Nvidia is helping to develop a set of AI technologies known as CANDLE (Cancer Distributed Learning Environment) to tackle research challenges and identify new therapies. By running neural networks on Nvidia hardware, the effort aims to accomplish a decade’s worth of progress in five years.
This article is part of our coverage of the World's Most Innovative Companies of 2017.
A version of this article appeared in the March 2017 issue of Fast Company magazine.