Otoy has announced the Render Token, a blockchain-based currency that underpins a distributed GPU rendering network. The company hopes to allow idle GPUs on consumer PCs to be tapped for rendering work, earning money for the owner in exchange for their computer’s work. The goal, Otoy says, is to make massive GPU rendering power available at low cost for rendering light-fields and more.
Otoy is a maker of rendering tools and a proponent of light-fields as the next-generation format of capture and display for AR and VR. Light-fields can be thought of as volumetric representations of a scene, where every view possible has already been calculated, allowing for real-time playback of cinema-quality scenery, even in demanding applications like virtual reality. Sounds great, right?
One problem with the practical application of light-fields is that they’re expensive to render, both computationally and temporally. If you want to farm your render out to the cloud to get it done in a reasonable amount of time, you can expect to pay a hefty fee.
For a company that’s pushing light-field as the future of immersive content, that rendering cost is a major blocker to adoption. And so on a quest to make GPU rendering dramatically more affordable, Otoy is mashing up the ideas of distributed supercomputing clusters and the blockchain with the hopes of creating a decentralized cloud rendering network that runs rendering tasks on idle GPUs in exchange for payment in the form of a cryptocurrency.
Introducing Render Token
The result is what Otoy calls the Render Token (RNDR). It’s a cryptocurrency coin based on the Ethereum blockchain, and the company says it’s the payment that will be used to incentivize and compensate participants in the rendering network for the use of their GPU power.
Distributed Computing Isn’t Exactly New
The idea of a distributed computing supercomputing cluster isn’t new. You may have heard of Folding@home or SETI@home, two popular distributed computing initiatives which borrowed unused computational power from idle computers running a piece of client software. But that computation power was offered by users on a volunteer basis. Now that blockchain technology (the underlying structure of cryptocurrencies) has been proven out, there’s a trusted method to distribute payments among a network of computers performing work for paying customers.
Intrinsic Human Value
Typical cryptocurrencies work by incentivising so-called ‘miners’ to run software on their computers to log and process cryptocurrency transactions for the whole network, and in exchange receive small bits of the cryptocurrency for their work. But all that processing power spent on number crunching is wasted, argues Otoy CEO Jules Urbach in his introduction of RNDR.
GPU hashing [AKA mining] incurs real world energy and cap-ex costs which return less and less value to the crypto-community as the blockchain grows. Over time, and on a global scale, this becomes enormously wasteful as GPU compute cycles are essentially thrown away hashing numbers with no intrinsic human value, while GPU rendering power on AWS remains scarce at $14.4/hour ( ~1000 OctaneBench).
Instead, Urbach says, the fundamental mining work that underpins crytocurenies could be used to produce valuable output in the form of rendered imagery.
The Render Token recalibrates the weighting of GPUs in the network, making it possible for each transaction on the blockchain to validate far greater value of equivalent GPU proof-of-render work that is valuable for real world jobs that are prohibitively expensive to fulfill quickly on local or centralized GPUs.
If you’re at all familiar with cryptocurrencies, you’ll know where this is all heading… an ICO. Otoy plans to make an ‘Initial Coin Offering’, which is a sale of the first Render Tokens. It’s both a way for Otoy to raise capital for their initiative and to establish the initial value of each Render Token. The company will offer a limited number of tokens, and, according to the Render Token White Paper, hopes to sell $134 million to support the project, presumably cutting off the supply after that amount is raised. That wouldn’t be the largest ICO to date (that would be Filecoin at $250M+, according to The Cointelegraph), but it’s not far off. Here’s how Otoy says they’ll spend the funds:
40% – will go to future development of each expansion phase (I-IV) and will support the team dedicated to the operations and engineering of the Render Token platform.
25% – running, maintaining, and scaling the network – this will include developing and creating new and more efficient solutions for rendering through custom built GPU solutions, effectively lowering the price of rendering across the network and the world.
20% – will be allocated to marketing and expanding the applications and reach and use-cases of the network.
10% – for third party services and contractors providing guidance and efficiencies to the project.
5% – for unforeseen roadblocks and circumstances.
Buying (or selling) Rendering Power
Owners of Render Tokens can then be spent to pay for rendering work on the network, or sold to others in exchange for difference currencies. Their ultimate value will be determined over time by the market, with prospective purchasers hoping value will increase following the ICO.
More Than Light-fields
Light-fields are particularly compelling for AR and VR, and Otoy hopes that the Render Token platform will make rendering them faster and more affordable, but light-field isn’t the only thing that the system can render; the company points to the following categories that could be disrupted if they achieve their vision of affordable, distributed rendering:
Media – From blockbuster films to home movies, RNDR brings affordable GPU compute to democratize advanced special effects and graphics. This will accelerate the arrival of holographic displays and avatars to change storytelling forever.
Gaming – Billions of consumers worldwide put unprecedented demands on 3D game engines. RNDR will provide the infrastructure and standards to uplevel gaming and finally bring cinematic rendering to interactive experiences.
Manufacturing – RNDR makes scientific-grade rendering available to any 3D object. Industry will be retooled as physics-accurate rendering transforms imaging from 3D visualization to intelligent 3D simulation.
Medical – Radiology is being overhauled by the introduction of high-level rendering. From surgeons to new medical students, RNDR will enable unprecedented levels of fidelity in medical imaging at a fraction of the speed and cost.
Virtual Reality – RNDR will bring economical light field media and streaming to allow any artist to create high quality VR experiences at 72K resolution and beyond —rendering an immersive Metaverse in stunning detail.
Augmented Reality – As the ARKit and ARCore revolutions take off, RNDR will make photorealistic objects and scenes on wearables and mobile devices a possibility by democratizing the authorship, registration and streaming of light fields and next gen media formats.
Mixed Reality – With the breakout successes of WeChat and SnapChat, the economy of virtual goods and services is only just beginning. RNDR will provide the key distribution system to monetize and track and digital objects in the Metaverse.