OTOY’s Next Phase: Peer-To-Peer Rendering Network Built On The Blockchain

by Ian Hamilton • September 6th, 2017

A couple weeks ago I dived deep into the efforts of Jules Urbach, the visionary fast-talking CEO and co-founder of Los Angeles-based OTOY. The forward-thinking founder of the rendering company is perpetually working at technology’s cutting edge, and his latest efforts add a new wrinkle to his complex attempt to shape the future.

Urbach’s latest plan is to create a peer-to-peer network that can get owners of GPUs (graphics processing units) paid for letting their idle machines be used by others for complicated rendering tasks. As part of the plan, the company aims to raise $134 million through the distribution of so-called “Render Tokens”, enabling Urbach and co-founder Alissa Grainger to build out the technology.

“OTOY is approaching the token sale as a product/network deployment, not as a fundraising [round],” Grainger wrote in an email.

The fundamental idea behind Urbach’s latest efforts is the blockchain. For those unfamiliar, PCs across the globe are being used to solve complicated math problems as part of a vast network. In solving these problems, each machine contributes to a permanent and ever-growing ledger that functions as an indisputable record of transactions — essentially adding blocks to an ever-growing chain. This fundamental concept is particularly exciting to technologists and libertarians since it can function as a kind of currency that isn’t managed by any government or bank. The premise is a distributed and reliable network, and the blockchain is inspiring founders and investors to spawn a whole generation of startups looking to build on the idea for a variety of applications.

Hence OTOY’s “Render Token“, described as follows:

The first network to transform the power of GPU compute into a decentralized economy of connected 3D assets. We aim to make it possible for any 3D object or environment to be authored, shared, and monetized through the Ethereum blockchain protocol. The RNDR token is powered by breakthrough cloud rendering technology, creating a distributed global network of millions of peer GPU devices.

The thinking is that long-term, as the power of the chips which draw virtual worlds grows in capability alongside higher speed Internet connections, more and more work might be distributed intelligently across the network. From a blog post by Urbach:

Eventually, as rendering photorealistic scenes on GPUs becomes more energy efficient through raytracing and AI de-noising ASICs, we believe that users will be able to fulfill more and more jobs with less and less hardware, latency and energy costs. New render jobs will then trend more towards real time composition, validation and re-streaming of dynamic scene state changes.

Traditional blockchain efforts merely solve these complicated math problems to add to the ledger, serving no inherent purpose. The premise behind the RNDR network is that it could speed up the rendering of extremely complex scenes by distributing the work to thousands or perhaps millions of machines, while using the blockchain ledger to essentially record completed jobs. Eventually an economy might emerge wherein people can pay using these Render Tokens or get paid for letting their machines be used to draw these complex scenes and virtual worlds.

A 10-page document outlines the plan for Render Tokens over the next year, with a pie chart breaking down how they plan to spend the $134 million they hope to raise after the sale of the tokens kicks off on Sept. 19, with 40 percent planned for the build-out of the following four technology phases:

Render Phase I: Post Token Sale (Q1 2018)

Begin to enable cloud rendering services on the orc.otoy.com website with the ability to exchange tokens for rendering services that will be kept track of and facilitated by the blockchain. These services would be initially handled by OTOY or third party servers and would set the framework for a reliable transition into the peer-to-peer framework of rendering.

Render Phase II: Development Process & Preparation for Peer-to-Peer Transition (Q2 2018)

Leverage our ecosystem to bring ~7 million users on-board with the Render token platform on the ORC Network and create a simple user interface so that users and developers can easily utilize their GPU power for rendering and streaming jobs in exchange for Render tokens. We will also create and expand the structure for the back-end OTOY network that will handle the efficient processing of the rendering and streaming transactions via the Ethereum blockchain. Beta launch of the network and testing will take place in this phase.

Render Phase III: Launch Peer-to-Peer Network (Q3/Q4 2018)
Launch the peer-to-peer exchange and unlock full capability of the Render token network to enable users to use the untapped GPU power from the available resource pool. Make back-end processes streamlined and make the facilitation of the rendering/streaming job to the recipient completely automated through smart contracts and blockchain development.

Render Phase IV: The Ultimate Vision (TBD)

Once the peer-to-peer network is all set-up and running in a stable manner, we will begin to focus our efforts to unlock the true value and potential of the render jobs processed through the Render Token and the ORC network. We will stress the capabilities that they will bring in terms of custom streaming permissions, copyright protection, and unique render creation and publishing. Eventually, the process of rendering using our framework will carry additional value in the form of new and exclusive features. We will release additional information on this process during future written posts and documentation.

For Urbach, that fourth phase outlined somewhat vaguely above is where things start to get truly interesting as a foundation piece for the future he envisions. He is hoping to essentially deliver a meta-reality in which people get paid for their contributions to it. Imagine modeling a digital chair in your living room using intuitive VR or AR equipment, then uploading that model to the network. In Urbach’s future built on this Render Token, that chair carries the creator’s digital signature and payment details, allowing the creator to get both recognized and paid for their creation no matter how it is used eventually. As Urbach sees it, the Web as it exists today monetized by ad networks and app stores are fundamentally flawed distribution models. He hopes that as personal computing makes the transition to mixing with our real world in three dimensions this technology can be a piece of making it all function more equitably for everyone participating.


Read More: Jules Urbach’s Quest To Realize Star Trek’s Holodeck

Brendan Eich is an advisor to the RNDR Token team. He is a co-founder of Mozilla, a creator of javascript and is currently CEO of Brave Software with its so-called “Basic Attention Token” that might figure into some of these grander ambitions.

“I’ve wanted to [create] not just a holodeck, but a transactional meta-reality, metaverse if you want to call it that, that was truly open and truly persistent, and ultimately truly meaningful and valuable and not wasting whatever value we as humans need,” Urbach said. “We’re going to start building our digital lives around this base layer of spatial experiences….the web isn’t a perfect record of the world, and the blockchain is much closer to that and in some ways it is easier to monetize than going through an app store.”

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  • Robert1592

    Is this guy drunk? Turning over our PC’s for anonymous people to use. I’m thinking hackers, I’m thinking global warming increases, I’m thinking bit coin generation in biblical proportions, I’m thinking internet bottlenecks and reduced speeds, and nobody gets paid.

    • mirak

      You can think noise too.

    • Xilence

      You’re going off the rails here.

      • Robert1592

        Let me rephrase then. The ideas formulated in this article are not clearly defined. Further more its clear Urbach doesn’t know what he needs to do to achieve what he’s speculating on. It was like he got drunk one night and started to ramble on about fantasies he had.

  • Ian

    Sony’s Play Create Share with Little Big Planet, mod nation racers, the upcoming Dreams, or PC mods, Gary’s Mod, player created worlds like in Minecraft, etc. All of these are evidence gamers are willing to create/contribute this type of content for free for the chance to get noticed and just for the fun of it. And folding home was proof if you have a good cause I believe in and want to use my system to say do math or physics I’ll let you do it for free too.

    I could imagine a kick starter based around these ideas. Imagine a developer asked gamers to contribute computer resources or help model assets which when combined form a sort of virtualized render farm and asset data base they can draw from? Instead of giving money I could say my PS4 helped make that game.

    • Robert1592

      I don’t think he’s talking about rendering games. Rendering games needs real time processing at the source. You can’t render a game at one PC and send the data across over the internet. The internet is way too slow for that. I think this guy is talking about distributed computing, an old idea. Although mentioning block chain has me wondering if he’s just thinking of mining bit coins. I think we pay too much attention to people who have money and time to idly speculate things.

      • JMB

        Robert please.

        If that’s you on your profile pic, you look like a very likeable, middle aged sort of guy and for some reason you decided to comment on here. That’s fine and it’s heartwarming to see that these sort of topics have already filtered way down the intellectual food chain to where average Joe thinks he should chime in. And maybe you should, if only to show that some of the author’s audience hasn’t grasped at all what Urbach and others are working towards.

        To ask if the guy is drunk and then muse about ‘the speed of the internet’, hackers and global warming, however, is just plain idiotic. I don’t mean this in an insulting sort of way, it merely describes adequately the cognitive rift between what was proposed and what you apparently understood.

        Please read up on Urbach’s track record, the possible revolutionary implications of blockchains not just as ‘currency ledgers’ but unwavering and incorruptible bearers of information and then be a little embarrassed about what you thought was a necessary opinion to share with the world.

        • Robert1592

          JMB. As a professional electronics engineer running a design firm I can say I’ve seen crackpot ideas come and go. Urbach’s track record is irrelevant, and in my time I’ve seen the biggest idiots get lucky and make a fortune only to lose it all again. I must admit I did have a hard time determining exactly what this article was about. Its vague, its meandering, its full of buzz words, and its definitely short on any details. There’s some indication that he wants people to sell 3d modelling creations. That’s well enough but hardly a new concept he’s talking about and not certainly something needing his input to make that happen. There’s an indication he wants people to perform distributed computing, once again not a new concept and in this article seems to be mixed in with “block chains” which I alludes to bit coin mining. Ever since VR and kick-starter came about I’ve been seeing all sorts of whack jobs spring out of the wood work, make extraordinary claims and throw about buzz words a dime a dozen, and gullible and technically naive people have been throwing money at them with bad results ensuing. If you could be so kind as to summarize this article for me and tell me what you think Urbach is actually intending to attempt in less vague terms I’d be happy to make another evaluation for you.

  • Stranger On The Road

    a small problem, it is safe to presume that whoever wishes to use this services would be someone who wishes to render a highly detailed object or scene. I’d imagine that the amount of time to upload those objects might rival the amount of time it would take to render them; and this is excluding the amount of time it would take each node to download that data!

    any way, won’t people be better off using the cloud? At the very least with the cloud you would have a rough idea in regards to latency, and you might be able to account for it. While with a blockchain, you have no idea where the task would be executed, the latency to that node, or the speed in which the node will carry out the task. Makes me wonder why would anyone choose this over the cloud.

    any way, I rather just continue to let [email protected] run on the PC 🙂

  • eqd

    There’s a reason why GPUs come packaged with many gigabytes of fast RAM and that package sits on very fast motherboard pathway – because these assets required to do render calculations are huge. People with their idle machines and consumer-grade internet aren’t going to be thrilled in shuffling that much data.

    Further, the products produced by those render calculation, at ‘only’ 4K resolution, are also huge which is going to lead to a gigantic blockchain.
    (Ok, the devil’s advocate says, rendered assets won’t be stored in the blockchain, we’ll just store a UID with a URI to an “immutable” store which has the actual asset (“immutable – we swear.”) Even with that strategy, a well populated network rendering 1000s (100,000s?) of scenes that are 30-60fps will be producing a non-trivial number of transactions per block; even if the block is only storing the (UID, txid, URI) we’re still considering a very large blockchain.)
    People who kvetch about the BTC blockchain now being over 100GB haven’t seen anything yet.

    • Xilence

      Distribute it. If each piece is given a part of the render pie (if it is programmed this way) then it can work. Rendering takes very long and the initial file upload, while long, is nothing compared to the actual render time. Trust me, I’ve seen those numbers. This can work.