ORBX.js and related news


[UPDATE: see Jim’s fair comment below. /be]

I’m pleased to report that OTOY today has announced good news about ORBX.js and the Amazon Web Services ORBX and OctaneCloud AMIs (Amazon Machine Instances, pronounced “AHmees” — who knew?), based on terrific adoption and developer interest:

  • Free ORBX and OctaneCloud AMIs forever, not just for a trial period. OTOY will focus higher up the value chain.
  • ORBX.js to be open-sourced on github as soon as OTOY delivers on prior promises, I hope by next summer.
  • Two major studios have been evaluating ORBX for a watermarked, DRM-free Video-on-Demand service.
  • OTOY has an ORBX encoder (built using their own OpenCL compiler) that runs as a small native loopback server, so it can be addressed by browser apps using WebSockets. This is a clever interim solution that avoids plugins and anticipates “ensafened” WebCL, or Rust on the GPU, or a better solution for writing a downloadable and memory-safe encoder — something Mozilla Research has on its agenda.

The deeper meaning here, in my view: a great rift emerged between CPU and GPU in the ’90s, where serial old x86 instruction set compatibility seemed to matter (remember shrink-wrap software?). The need for speed with binary compatibility begot big, power-hungry, superscalar CPUs, while from the SGI diaspora, the GPU went massively parallel.

One consequence of the rift: the rise of ARM on mobile, where binary compatibility did not and does not matter, but power efficiency does.

This rift may yet be healed, and in a way that avoids too much custom hardware (or else we will have to rely on FPGA-on-a-chip).

With enough homogeneity and parallel processing power, always-evolving video codecs, 3D model asset streams, and undreamed-of combinations should be feasible to implement in downloadable, power-efficient, safe code. Perhaps we can even one day kill off some of the video codec patent monsters that are currently burned into silicon.

More to come in the new year; this is just another happy rolling thunder update.