Business - Written by Alan Majer on Friday, March 27, 2009 15:29 - 6 Comments
Gaming pushes frontier of cloud computing
In a nutshell: power-hungry video games are run on a server far away, and then high-definition video of gameplay is piped over the internet back to the person playing the game. What that means is that games like Crysis (which are virtually unplayable on anything but a high-power PC) can be enjoyed on a low power laptop… or even piped directly to a TV with the help of a small box that can do the video decompression.
…think of it as inserting the Internet between a computer’s video output plug and the computer screen. Here’s their trailer/demo video:
The enemy of such a system is “lag” of course – any small delay induced in the video compression/decompression or via Internet transmission will kill first person shooter experiences. These are people that like 60 frames per second after all. But OnLive says it can combat that via the fastest video compression I’ve ever heard of (single digit milliseconds). To be honest, that’ sounds too low to believable – I don’t think Cisco’s telepresence system approaches that. But if it really is anywhere close to that good, they’ve accomplished something spectacular.
It’s really interesting how most Internet-delivered multiplayer games start from the premise that you have lots of smart hardware and a narrow pipe. A lot of computing power goes into contructing and rendering physics and virtuals worlds that come out of those pipes. Onlive’s disruptive approach assumes the opposite. It assumes “dumb” hardware at the other end, but a fat pipe. That way it transmits a ton of “dumb” video pixels that can be displayed anywhere. That’s not entirely the case of course, since there’s gotta be a ton of “smart” work going in in that video compression/decompression hardware, but it does give pause on how much smarts we really need at the edge of the cloud. It’s great to see OnLive take a stab at delivering games on demand – it creates interesting possibilities for controling piracy, try-before-buy, or even delivering a new breed of high-res games that even the highest end machines are incapable of.
But this is the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the larger possibilities for delivering cloud computing. Games are just the beginning, the same model of delivery can be applied to anything that hits a computer screen. Regardless of whether OnLive itself succeeds, this is definitely an important turning point in our computing model.
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