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How white noise can keep cloud gamers in sync

Researchers have found a unique approach to solve the problem of interstream delays in cloud gaming sessions

Ekho, a new system uses white noise sequences to solve the issue of interstream delays.
Ekho, a new system uses white noise sequences to solve the issue of interstream delays. (Pexels)

In a quest to solve the persistent problem of inter-device synchronisation faced by cloud gamers, a group of researchers have come up with a unique approach that syncs streams transmitted to two devices by adding inaudible white noise to the game audio.

Cloud gaming, where people play video games remotely from the cloud, has witnessed exponential growth since the covid 19-mandated lockdowns and gaming shortages that occurred during the pandemic. Today, it’s a $6-billion global market, with more than 23 million players worldwide, according to a recent press statement by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

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However, one of the constant issues that players have complained about is a lag in synchronisation between remote devices, which significantly affects the gaming experience. For instance, a player might see something happen on the screen and then hear it a half second later. To solve this problem, scientists from MIT and Microsoft Research have come up with a new system: Ekho.

Ekho adds inaudible white noise sequences to the game audio streamed from the cloud server and listens for those sequences in the audio recorded by the player’s controller, according to the statement. It uses the mismatch between these sequences to constantly measure and resolve interstream delay.

The scientists tested Ekho in real cloud gaming sessions and found it to be highly reliable. The system can synchronise to less than 10 milliseconds of each other, most of the time compared to other methods which resulted in delays of more than 50 milliseconds.

“Sometimes, all it takes for a good solution to come out is to think outside what has been defined for you. The entire community has been fixed on how to solve this problem by synchronizing through the network. Synchronising two streams by listening to the audio in the room sounded crazy, but it turned out to be a very good solution,” says Pouya Hamadanian, lead author of the research paper, in the MIT statement.

Although Ekho was designed for cloud gaming, it can also be used to synchronize media streams across different devices, such as in training situations that use multiple augmented or virtual reality headsets, the researchers said.

According to the MIT statement, by synchronizing media streams transmitted from the cloud to two devices, researchers could improve cloud gaming and applications in augmented reality and virtual reality.

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