Applications and Tools, Virtual World Platforms, Visualization in 3D

OTOY In The News Again: Advanced 3D Renders and a Browser-Based Virtual World

On the heels of the buzz over a snippet of video that was said to show a highly detailed 3D world, fully rendered and accessible through your browser, the technology that supposedly drove the platform is the subject of an Advertising Age piece on its use in films.

Does OTOY Allow A Full Browser-Based 3D Render?

OTOY is billed as an “800k web plug-in that enables cinematic quality 3D rendering in a browser with compressed content streams that load in seconds. OTOY web browser applications include next generation games, 3D virtual communities, instant messaging and social networking applets, and application and desktop sharing tools.”

There was wide debate over LivePlace, the virtual world that the video was supposedly a demo of, with the general consensus being that it was, if not a hoax, then at least a mashed-up combination of real-time and pre-rendered bits and pieces.

But the OTOY technology that supposedly drives LivePlace was demonstrated by Jules Urbach, and it sure looks like a browser-based render:

Adam Frisby from DeepThink is skeptical, however, of the ability of OTOY to deliver streaming 3D worlds and gives a more technical assessment (calling it vapourware):

There is a big reason we do client-side rendering today, and that is it distributes the load better than any “cloud”. 100,000 clients = 100,000 processors, 100,000 graphics accelerators, etc. Yes some of them suck and can’t do pretty graphics (Intel I’m looking squarely in your general direction), but the rendering they can do is going to be better than what a foreign service can do for you, and it’s going to be speedier - not only do you not have to wait 200ms ping and a x megabyte download to happen before you see the results of your movement.

While I am not claiming that this technology couldn’t be made to work - it’s just not going to be pretty, I dont believe it will scale anywhere near effectively, and the bandwidth requirements alone are going to cause some very tough questions to be asked about whether this will run at all. (After all - anyone with a internet connection fast enough to support this is going to probably have a decent video card anyway.)

There might be more under the hood with OTOY than vapour and Urbach defends the rendering technology while remaining mum on the development of LivePlace, saying that the virtual world (apparantly backed by mySpace co-founder Brad Greenspan) is covered by NDA. Said Urbach to TechCrunch:

“The 14 mins of real time rendering in this material is streaming live to a Treo 700 at 240 kpbs. This was captured on March 2007, the server was running an ATI RX 1900 GPU. The tech has improved massively since then (as has the HW we now run on). There was never intention to show any part of this to the public until we could include voxel rendering and Lightstage based characters. I think anyone who liked what they saw, will find the final project much more impressive.

The whole aim of our work last month on the Ruby demo for AMD was to show that the quality of offline and real time work is identical starting with this generation of GPUs. The following presentations this month are just introducing Lightstage and how it makes characters (or any CG object) look 100% real in those real time environments.

The virtual worlds these technologies are going to be applied to was not meant to be discussed until later this year, after one further announcement regarding the server side platform being developed for OTOY.

We had nothing to do with editing or leaking this video and can’t comment on anything other than the OTOY technology, since this project is still under NDA.”

OTOY Technology and Hollywood
In the meantime, Urbach’s other company, LightStage, is picking up traction in Hollywood, according to Ad Age:

The worlds of film and video games are about to fuse. Hailing this new era as “Cinema 2.0″ at New York nightlife spot Marquee yesterday at what was essentially a glorified press conference to introduce the company’s new super-fast graphics card (the ATI RadeonTM HD 4800 X2), he said advances in technology will allow movies to be more interactive and video games to be increasingly lifelike. Playing a movie at home, users can change plots, interact with characters and even create new endings.

…Jules Urbach, founder of Otoy and LightStage, computer graphics and 3D rendering firms, respectively, said the new technology allows for highly detailed computer-graphics modeling. He described a complex process that allow 32,000 points per inch to realistically capture the way light falls, the drape of clothing and a fluidly accurate 360-degree movement.

The LightStage announcement in conjunction with the introduction of the Radeon graphics chip adds a piece to the rendering/server puzzle.

Urbach previously explained LightStage:

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