In 2009, OnLive burst on to the gaming scene with the alluring promise of true cloud gaming. Regardless of the power or storage of a local computer, the sales pitch went, users could enjoy high-res video games straight from the cloud.
Unfortunately, the gap between promise and reality turned out to be too great — most broadband internet in the United States hadn’t reached the level of high bandwidth and low latency required to make this type of service work at scale. So these services foundered until they were eventually bought by Sony and consigned to tech history.
Of course, that wasn’t the end. A lot of the underlying tech turned into PlayStation Now in 2015, and competitors like Nvidia GeForce Now and, most recently, Google Stadia have made it clear that real-time cloud-based game streaming is here to stay.
High-performance streaming protocols like WebRTC, which promotes real-time communication with simple application programming interfaces, offer better ways to provide 3D content in browsers. Coupled with 5G and other networking innovations that deliver greater bandwidth, the question for interactive 3D streaming for business is: Where it will go from here?
How 3D gaming’s progress intertwines with enterprise opportunities
There’s no question that game streaming has some significant differences from streaming interactive 3D content for different industry use cases. Enterprises have different needs for security, control of data, and integration into other systems and policies. Addressing these needs requires different technical capabilities and a corporate culture that understands the unique requirements of business.
Much of the early development of real-time 3D streaming solutions for enterprise ran parallel to developments in gaming, as each industry worked out the tech on its own.
Some notable milestones:
· In 2011, PureWeb delivered new streaming technology in the enterprise space. It was cloud deployed, using proprietary streaming technologies from our healthcare and medical imaging solutions.
· In 2017, Epic Games released the tool Datasmith, which allowed game engine developers to easily import CAD files into game projects. This gave access to enormous amounts of high-value enterprise content and led to the creation of photorealistic product configurations as well as architecture, engineering, and construction simulations.
· In November 2017, WebRTC Standard 1.0 was released. This brought a native web-based standard that could support streaming in browsers and unleashed pixel streaming in 2018 from Epic’s Unreal Engine and Unity. These could deliver high frame rates at 4K quality, all in a browser. Today, these types of streaming solutions are being integrated into PureWeb’s scalable cloud platform.
As more people adopt real-time 3D streaming in gaming and enterprise, both will continue to grow and evolve, helping each other become better along the way. And studies have shown that interactive 3D buying experiences can improve conversion rates over traditional digital marketing.
5 predictions for the future of 3D streaming for business
Following the trajectory of these technologies, we can make a few predictions about the future of interactive 3D streaming. They will keep business on the cutting edge of photorealistic 3D streaming.
1. WebRTC will continue to rise in prominence.
While there are a variety of 3D streaming platforms out there, WebRTC stands out, thanks to its compatibility with every major browser. In 2020 and beyond, compliance across all these browsers will continue to deepen. Developers will exploit these capabilities to build new ones, driving yet more adoption. Meanwhile, WebRTC’s capabilities will continue to increase as well.
2. Creators will be able to sell digital assets via blockchain.
While blockchain is mainly known in cryptocurrency contexts, its potential reaches far beyond that. Blockchain will allow creators of rich digital content to capture value by reselling it as digital assets. We’ve already seen this happen with the sale of a one-of-a-kind virtual racing car inside a game.
Animoca Brands auctioned off a limited edition of a virtual model, using blockchain to ensure that it would go to a single buyer and promising it would not release any more. It sold for $110,600. This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to virtual commerce.
3. Identity management will become easier and more secure.
For the enterprise environment, secure, seamless access to simulations, individuals, data, and programs is a requirement for high-value interactions. A combination of blockchain technologies and centralized authorities will play a role in reducing intrusions while increasing ease of use.
Microsoft’s Azure AD Privileged Identity Management offers a good glimpse into what this future might look like, with features like just-in-time privileged access, activation justification, and time-bound access. These are just the beginning of where identity management can go, and we will see it rapidly evolve over the next few years.
Then there’s the case for what is known as SSI (Self Sovereign Identity), one of the hot topics in the field of block chain and new technologies, and its potential applications for business in multiple industries including healthcare, banking and retail.
4. Portable virtualized computing will be fully realized.
The last two decades have seen the rise of server virtualization and cloud computing environments. These technologies provide greater flexibility that lead to a better response to load demands for users. At present, however, a user’s experience with an application still remains bound to a specific server.
In the future, improved identity management, coupled with changes in server execution, will allow us to fully organize the experience around the user rather than the server. This would enable all kinds of new freedom for developers and users.
As an example, let’s say that Epic Games wanted to create a structure in which gamers could meet up with friends to play Fortnite, then migrate as a group to Minecraft without having to log out of Fortnite. They would launch Minecraft, and then move over to as a group. In the current server-centric environment, this isn’t really possible. But as the cloud becomes more distributed, it would be.
5. There will be more extended reality (XR) content solutions that will need to be scaled.
One of the big obstacles for widespread adoption of virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) is still scalability. Creators of this type of content might have an amazing product, but more often than not, it’s trapped on local workstations, requiring users to travel to it in order to make use of it.
Cloud-streamed interactive simulation offers a solution to this present-day problem. It can take what were once assets that can only be accessed locally and deliver them worldwide.
While the near future of interactive 3D cloud streaming offers a lot of things to be excited about, what may be even more exciting are the developments it paves the way for further down the line. Ever since the internet captured the imagination of sci-fi writers, they created virtual worlds built from networks that characters could live inside.
As the specifications for the World Wide Web were being built in the ’90s, cyberpunk fiction was already envisioning its successor — an immersive 3D environment called the Metaverse. Popular depictions of potential Metaverses include books like “Neuromancer” and movies like “Ready Player One” and “Minority Report.”
But the possibilities of the Metaverse have remained, tantalizingly, just out of reach. What these developments in interactive 3D simulation represent, however, are the first great leaps into the successor to the web, the Metaverse.
Many high-value enterprise use cases could emerge from the Metaverse. This could take the shape of expert support and training where users of advanced technologies will be able to collaborate with engineers half a world away in real time with virtual models of the technical tools they are using live in the field. And customers buying cars could move from brand to brand in a modelled environment of the user’s choosing, while evaluating their choices from home, before deciding which ones they want to test-drive.
If your company is interested in embracing and moving forward with scalable cloud streaming for photorealistic 3D applications created with leading game engines, let us know.
For more on the evolution of interactive 3D, check out our State of Interactive & Immersive trends report.