In the near future, the only difference between a smartphone, tablet, and a laptop will be the size of the screen. Hardcore gamers could play 3D intensive games in a smartphone, and Michael Bay could render “Transformers 4″ from his iPad. Otoy, an LA-based software company, has discovered a way to stream any application to any device, completely through a web browser. It’s difficult to overestimate the potential disruptiveness of Otoy, as a breakthrough streaming service could, in the near future, end the need for app stores and computer upgrades (see a demo below).
Otoy has a habit of impressing the tech press with its surprising ability to stream 3D intensive graphics to devices that shouldn’t be able to run them. Since Otoy’s 2009 demo, there’s been a rush of companies in the ever more crowded “cloud” services industry, such as Onlive’s streaming video gaming. Up until now, video games were shackled to certain consoles, mobile apps to particular app stores, and software to particular operating systems. If we didn’t own an iPhone, Windows, and or an Xbox, we couldn’t use a lot of cool applications.
Even cooler, we may no longer need to shell out $3,000 on a high-end laptop to run games or graphics software. At Otoy’s media event with Mozilla and Autodesk at San Francisco headquarters, we saw the graphics-hungry first person shooter, Unreal, run seamlessly on an iPhone. In essence, Otoy brings a supercomputer to your phone or tablet.
“That’s going to have huge implications in my business” said celebrity talent agent and Otoy investor, Ari Emanuel, who sees the ability of more filmmakers to make movies in less time and for less money. Currently, it takes an entire day to render movie-quality scenes. With Otoy, globally distributed teams could work in real time (some at the beach) without having to stagger their work for an entire day between revisions.
So, how much will it cost if Otoy completely replaces my computer needs? About $300, estimates Urbach, based on 8 hours of use per day for consumer applications (Otoy charges by computing power and is currently targeting artists).
There is one more implications of note: Otoy could dramatically reduce Internet congestion. Cellular networks are overloaded, in part, because multimedia takes up a huge chunk of the available bandwidth. Netflix, alone, hogs an estimated 32% of total U.S. bandwidth during peak hours. Otoy and Mozilla estimate that the enhanced streaming technology could reduce the total bandwidth needs by a sizable 25%.
In order for Otoy, or any cloud rendering service, to completely service all our computing needs, the Internet must get much more reliable. At the demo, a standard 4G cell network could stream a video game. But, spotty coverage around cities, on airplanes, and in rural areas will be a serious bottleneck for Otoy. Additionally, it’s unclear whether current U.S. bandwidth could actually handle everyone moving to the cloud.
So, while we don’t know the implications in the short term, the implications a few years down the road are very exciting.