cloud rendering

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I look forward to see what gets play at GDC next week as far as the various server-side games graphics “suppliers” go. You’ve probably heard of at least one of them: OnLive, OTOY, Gakai, Playcast, RealityServer. There’s even a site tracking them. In the past we’ve written a bit here and there about these; Naty and I are both skeptical at this point, though personally I’d love to see someone pull it off.

Some efforts seem like dissipating clouds at this point, e.g. Playcast hasn’t had a press release since last July, and Gakai has also been “quiet”, Google-wise—maybe they’re just saving their thunder for GDC (OK, enough cloud analogies, I promise). Others are currently thriving, e.g, OnLive raised more money last summer and fall, and sounds likely to have a GDC announcement. Interestingly, Autodesk, the company I work for, is one of the new investors; CAD on the cloud seems much “safer” than gaming, where any hesitation in frame rate can cost you your virtual life. CAD for the masses (even if they don’t call it CAD all the time; maybe “CAC”, computer-aided consumers?) also seems to be the aim of NVIDIA’s RealityServer.

And now, perhaps, it’s an aim of OTOY, usually seen with AMD but now also with SolidWorks. After many cool youtube videos and very little technological information, the CEO of OTOY, Jules Urbach, talked a little with the press. Read it now before the issue disappears. Not a lot there (though I hadn’t considered the South Korean market, or Japan for that matter, which have much higher speed internet connections), but it includes a line there about how their site should have something up mid-March (try their website; right now it says “soon”). Hmmm, what happens mid-March?

Here’s to an interesting GDC!

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In January, AMD and OToy announced Fusion Render Cloud, a centralized rendering server system which would perform rendering tasks for film and even games, compressing the resulting video and sending it over the internet.  In March, OnLive announced a similar system, but for the entire game, not just rendering.  Now NVIDIA has announced another cloud rendering system, called RealityServer, running on racks of Tesla GPUs (presumably using Fermi in future iterations).  This utilizes the iray ray tracing system developed by mental images, who also make mental ray (mental images has been owned by NVIDIA since 2007).

The compression is going to be key, since it has to be incredibly fast, extremely low bit rate and very high quality for this to work well.  I’m a bit skeptical of cloud rendering at the moment but maybe all these companies (and investors) know something I don’t…

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