I spent some time playing with Nvidia’s cloud-based 3D graphic platform and came away with mixed feelings. I started out convinced that this is a milestone product introduction for graphics online. The availability of 3D photorealistic rendering in a cloud platform is certain to open many new avenues for application development. However, after spending a few hours immersed in what is now available, the shortcomings are apparent.
The Facebook application is OK. Just OK. The applet’s performance is good. Rendering is smooth; it comnpares favorably with other online virtual worlds, and is probably in the first rank of applets that I’ve seen on Facebook. However, the graphic quality is not much better than other Facebook games. Which means it is several notches below what’s available for game consoles; it looks like a first-generation PC game from the 90′s.
A quick run-through of what is offered: At My 3D Scenes on Facebook, you can choose between a free application and a premium version for $1.99 month. This is what the premium version looks like, after playing with it for a while.
You can’t do very much with this application, whether you’re using the free or paid version. You’re offered a selection of virtual settings, ranging from a bedroom with a teenager playing guitar to a beach set up for a wedding. You can view the scene from a 360 degree range. And you have empty spots that you can fill with your choice of images or videos; you’re offered a list of your Facebook friend’s photos and some stock photography. Once you paste in the pictures, that’s about it. You can save and share, but nothing else. It’s not much fun. And it’s not visually interesting.
Of course, I wasn’t testing this for entertainment quality. I was looking at the technology and performance. As I wrote the other day, this is a demonstration of Reality Server in a cloud platform. That means a combination of Nvidia’s Tesla graphics processing hardware, and rendering software from mental images GmbH, a division of Nvidia.
RealityServer is not a newcomer to the space. Version 1.0 was released in 2002. It was designed to provide a distributed environment for rendering realtime graphics using mental images’ proprietary iray technology. Customers have used it to provide real estate site walk-throughs, and architectural site reviews. No one has yet offered it on a mass scale in a cloud architecture, until now.
I tested out the site of a Reality Server client where it’s being used in an ecommerce setting. Mydeco.com is a UK online home furnishings retailer. Their site provides a 3D room designer, where you can select products in the catalog and drag them into a virtual room. In theory, the advantage of placing a lamp or a chair in a room is to see the interaction of colors and design styles. If it works well, it should be a good sales tool. My experience wasn’t good. It took forever for my rooms to be rendered. I ended up frustrated and lost interest in shopping.
This experience demonstrates the need for a better architecture, which was not used in this application. MyDeco is in the UK and I’m in the New York area. The transatlantic cables work well enough for HTML pages, but they’re over-taxed with the streaming of an interactive 3D rendering. The need for a distributed architecture is apparent.
My 3D Scenes may well be a success on Facebook. Just 2 days after launched, it has over 4,000 Facebook fans. If it is a success, we can tell because premium subscribers can save their custom scenes and share them with anyone to view.
I still think this is the beginning of a new chapter in virtual realism online. But it demonstrates how much work there is still to be done.