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OnLive and the technology behind it. May 31, 2009

Posted by neuralvomit in Technology.
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For those of you who aren’t aware of what OnLive is – Let me sum it up for you – Basically OnLive is a service that runs console games on it’s servers, and streams the resulting data to your display (Television/Monitor). Your controller presses are sent via a small device directly to the server. The delay involved is apparently inperceivable to the human eye. Sounds great.

If it works.

OnLive relies on a few too many things outside of the services control to work. The gamer has to have an Internet connection within their house for a start, and a stable one at that. They also need to hope that their ISP is kind on the ‘ping’ side of things. Slow network traffic will quite probably be detrimental to an OnLive gamers experience.

Still they are doing a number of good things with their roll-out. Their idea involves multiple server centres throughout the United States, so delay ‘should’ be kept to a minimum. If this does work…well, the technology behind it can be used in quite a few interesting ways.

If you are a handheld console owner, hopefully your jaw will be agape with the next statement. You can play ANY current game, on a handheld. Certainly, the resolution would be shoddy at best, but there is no foreseeable reason why with a service that does all the computing and graphics work on its back end, that you couldn’t enjoy the wonders of a Metal Gear Solid 4, or a Fallout 3…directly to your OnLive handheld.

Of course, if OnLive works, and works well…there are a few interesting downsides. Perhaps the age of the humble computer games store, will come to an end. Of course, libraries and used book stores still exist in the age of digital reprinted media, so too, perhaps…will the game store. With digitally owned media, we will no longer have space devoted to our selection of games. But will we also feel like we are lacking something with our purchases? Ultimately, even if the OnLive service does not live up to its expectations, there are more than a few improvements able to be used by the underlying technology behind it.

Firstly, handheld/mobile devices: With a central processing server doing all the intense labour behind your queries, what use has a SmartPhone for the latest in processor or video card technology? The answer is simple…it doesn’t. With 4G looking as good as it does, Will anyone really need to worry about not having the required ‘speed’ to stream simple low-resolution video? I doubt it.

A further perk of this is of course the ability for SmartPhone applications to use far more processor power than they currently are able to. Word processors on your ‘phone’ which run as good as on a computer. Not to mention the ability to access a far wider range of applications. Further into the future there is the potential for even more innovation. Laptops that don’t require anywhere near the processing power or RAM – And due to this have expanded battery life.

Perhaps most of interest, however…Is the PADD. A nice humble star-trek invention, this technology could essentially make it happen. And at a fraction of the cost to produce over something like the IPhone. (which feasibly could be considered close to a PADD in form and function) Access to virtual libraries, encyclopedia’s, course information, personal data. All from a simple to use handheld device.

With all the potential for doing back-end on a central server and then delivering it to your customers, it’s not hard to see how far this technology could progress if it were accepted into the ‘pop tech’ as it were.

As a slight aside, members of countries who have highly inflated games prices (Australia rings a bell) should be more than excited by the prospect of a digital delivery system for all of their favorite games. Release dates will be basically static, not to mention the pricing will be based probably around the cost of a game in USD. It might not seem like a big deal to some people, but when a game like Guitar Hero: Metallica costs Australians the equivalent of $72USD (The game is $50 USD according to gamestop) then you realise that OnLive could bring savings of almost 50% to these parts of the world.

Ultimately though, as excited as I can be about the technology behind OnLive it comes back to the same three little words.

“If it works…”