Microsoft Research's 'DeLorean' cloud gaming system can predict your next move

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Cloud gaming may sound like little more than a marketing buzzword, but the idea of running games off of powerful servers and streaming them to small boxes under your TV is incredibly promising. You wouldn't need to buy costly new consoles every five years, and you could play any game in seconds without running to the store or downloading a massive file. And everyone would be able to enjoy some of the best graphics around. There's only one problem: it takes time for game feeds to make it from the servers to your living room, and that delay can make cloud gaming frustrating at best and impossible at worst.

Researchers at Microsoft think they've come up with the solution. They've designed new software called "DeLorean" that predicts what you'll do next. Multiple different scenarios are played out at the same time on the servers, and those few options are then sent to your home before you've even made your next move. When you finally decide who you're going to shoot or in which direction you're going to walk, the image frames are already queued and ready for action on your device at home.

The result is a nearly lag-free experience. According to the researchers, testing with real gamers in Doom 3 and Fable 3 revealed that DeLorean made gameplay acceptable at latencies — or delays — of up to 250 milliseconds. Without such a system in place, a latency of 100ms or even 60ms can significantly impede gameplay.

Of course, the system is dependent on the accuracy of its predictions. To get the best predictions possible, the researchers designed the system to use information on how most players proceed through the game, as well as data on your individual gameplay style. In more complex situations, like a shootout, the system will make multiple guesses and pre-cache those on your device at home. And when the system completely misses its guess, the system allows for your device to perform some simple three-dimensional perspective adjustments to one of the incorrect predictions.

In testing with small groups of players, the researchers report that users saw a vast improvement when compared with traditional delays in cloud gaming systems. Some still noticed a delay, but they found it to be acceptable. A more quantitative experiment tested how much damage players took as they progressed through an area in Doom 3. While players took far more damage when playing with as little at 64ms of lag on a typical setup, the difference between players using DeLorean and those on a lag-free system were negligible.

It's all extremely promising, but there is at least one major downside: sending multiple different predicted outcomes for each action to users' homes demands quite a bit of bandwidth. In testing, the researchers recorded 1.5 to 4.5 times greater bandwidth usage with DeLorean than a standard setup. Multiplayer gameplay could also be a concern, as there are more human players who can do something unpredictable. In a paper detailing the system, however, the researchers note that current multiplayer systems use a bit of prediction already and that errors and glitches using DeLorean "are no more or less frequent than in standard multiplayer."

Naturally, there's no word on whether Microsoft will ever implement DeLorean into one of its Xbox consoles — if it did, the Xbox One would theoretically be able to play any Xbox 360 or original Xbox game. However, this is far from the first time Microsoft and others have experimented with cloud gaming. Certain Xbox One games currently utilize dedicated Xbox Live servers to reduce the processing load on the console itself. The artificial intelligence in games like Forza 5 and Titanfall use the system, and future games can offload processing of some non-essential elements like lighting effects to servers. Sony, meanwhile, has a more fully-fledged cloud gameplay system with PlayStation Now, which lets PS4 owners rent and play PS3 games that stream over the internet from the company's servers.

Comments

Cloud Gaming is still subpar. Remember OnLive . Lol.

It was cool while it lasted….

It still exists. It’s cloudlift service that allows you to play many of your steam games in the cloud is among the most compelling gaming services available.

You might feel it’s compelling, but compelling doesn’t mean useful or usable. It’s neither.

Nvidia GRID service works great on my Shield. Borderlands 2 looks great and feels native. If you own a Shield device its free too.

I renewed my Onlive subscription earlier this month. It has gotten better. A few good games actually.

This research is target the issue coming from OnLive and predict frames and send them in advance to client to minimize latency in a typical setup.

Isn’t this whole article about how MSR is making it not subpar?

They should work on making the x1 stream games locally to maybe windows devices

That would be a huge + for the ecosystem

Or allow me to stream games from my PC to my X1. Considering the PC I built a year and a half before the xbox one came out is much more powerful.

Or allow me to stream games from my PC to my X1. Considering the PC I built a year and a half before the xbox one came out is much more powerful.

You build a $399 PC in 2012 that’s much more powerful than the Xbox One? Please, elaborate.

You could build a system around a Geforce 560 ($80) from 2010 for less than 400, and it would still be more powerfule. By the way, the Xbone came out in 2013.

By all means, show us your $400 system from 2010 that matches the Xbox One in gaming.

I’m so confused… He didn’t say that his PC cost less than $399, so what are you talking about. He simply said that his PC is much more powerful than his Xbox One…

He never once said anything about the price. Stop putting words in his mouth.

Well it makes sense that if I spent $5,000 2 years ago to build a gaming rig it would be more powerful than both the PS4 and XBox One. The reason people are saying $399 is it needs to be comparable in price to the current systems. Obviously anyone can build a more powerful PC, but can they do it for $399 and run every PC game with ZERO issues. Any PS4 or Xbox One game will work and play like they are supposed to on every Xbox and PS4. The same cannot be said about gaming rigs…

but can they do it for $399 and run every PC game with ZERO issue

Sure, if you want to play them at 720p and 30fps. :)

Why did he have to start a debate of consoles vs PCs? This was a separate discussion altogether. He could’ve simply not mentioned that he built the PC a year and a half before the Xbox One came out.

He didn’t say it was cheaper, just more powerful. Consoles are not the pinnacles of technological achievement the marketing departments try to make of them. They trade a price tag and plug-and-play for visual fidelity. This current generation is no different.

The poster who started this said… “Considering the PC I built a year and a half before the xbox one came out is much more powerful.”

That’s an obvious critique of the Xbox One’s lack of power. The person who responded did so in a way that drew attention to the fact that the Xbox One is likely cheaper as well… Notice that the original poster didn’t say “Considering the PC I built a year and a half before the xbox one came out is much more powerful and expensive.

Why leave out information on the cost comparison of the machines if one is going to bother to make a comparison at all?

Considering you will be able to stream TV to Smartglass very soon (it’s in preview), I’m quite certain it’ll be possible to stream games to Smartglass when somebody is watching TV.

Is this something you assume or something you’ve heard?

It’s GrzegorzWidla. He always knows.

Assume. It seems like an obvious direction.

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