Blockchain Streamer Theta Labs Offers Tokens For Your Processing Powerbr>
Theta Labs is a subsidiary of Sliver.tv a virtual reality live-streaming company. It has developed an open-source protocol to allow decentralized apps that will be built on top of various platforms and enable music, TV, films, e-sports and more to be streamed.
Some big-name advisors are involved, including Steve Chen, Co-Founder of YouTube, and Justin Kan, Co-Founder of Twitch.
The technology has two components – it enables users to share unused bandwidth and resources to cache and relay video streams to others in the network, and, in turn, mine Theta tokens, thus providing a technical solution and economic incentives, using reputation dependent mining, global reputation consensus, and proof-of-engagement that would only be possible with blockchain technology.
Mitch Liu is the do-Founder and CEO of Theta Labs and Sliver, which delivers 360-degree VR in partnerships with Intel Extreme Masters, Turner Eleague, ESL One, and Dreamhack. In 2010, Liu co-founded Gameview Studios best known for its Tap Fish mobile game franchise with nearly 100 Million downloads.Liu talked with Block Tribune about his latest venture.
BLOCK TRIBUNE: So let’s start with the basics – this is an app that enables streaming eSports, music, all sorts of things for many platforms?
MITCH LIU: That’s right. So this is the data network. It’s a new blockchain and a new protocol that enables video streaming, peer-to-peer video streaming infrastructure.
BLOCK TRIBUNE: So tell me, how would it basically work? If somebody wants to install this on their site, what happens next?
MITCH LIU: Right. So, we’re focusing primarily on video streaming and delivery. And building a network that enables a peer-to-peer video delivery infrastructure. So, the way it works is, it’s an open source project that any partner, including Twitch or YouTube or any of the Chinese video platforms or Sliver TV, which is in the eSports base, can essentially build a DApp, a decentralized app. Or modify the existing app that will talk to our network, to our underlying protocol, and when users use the app, they can have that running on their PC, on their desktop.
Let’s say if you’re watching your favorite streamer, Fandy, on Twitch or on YouTube, or any platform that supports data. You can leave your app running overnight and the app will automatically cache, relay, and distribute that video stream to other people in your neighborhood. It could be a friend who’s two houses down the street, or it could be anybody in your local city. And you’ll earn. You’ll essentially mine data tokens, and you earn money during that process. You can also mine, or earn, data tokens while you’re watching the stream itself. If you’re watching Fandy, you can also be relaying that stream to someone else at the same time.
BLOCK TRIBUNE: And what will these tokens be good for? Will they be exchange-traded or are they just within the ecosystem?
MITCH LIU: At the end of February, we’ll issuing the ERC20 tokens, which are built on the ethereum blockchain. And those tokens will be tradeable on the various exchanges. But there’s also utility and usage of the tokens on various sites that support data. The first site is our Sliver TV platform, in the eSports base, right? So we’re more like a Twitch-type of platform, so there the users will be able to use those data tokens, for instance, for virtual gifting to gift their favorite streamers.
Unlike Twitch, where you have to subscribe to five dollars per month, the virtual gift, and the virtual goods model, is much more popular coming from Asia, for instance. So, that’s an example of the use of the tokens. Advertisers would be able to fund advertising campaigns with data tokens in order to sponsor their favorite streamers and their favorite video streams. And lastly, users can also use the tokens to purchase premium content, or to unlock different parts of the site, sort of a paywall, if you will. Or to purchase virtual items, or virtual goods. So all that functionality is implemented by the vertical app that is built on top of the network.
BLOCK TRIBUNE: Explain to me what reputation-dependent mining and reputation consensus will do.
MITCH LIU: So, getting into the sort of core of our system. The important part about the decentralized model for video delivery, and video streaming, is providing a strong enough incentive for each of the nodes to do their work. The network, in fact, the more nodes you have coming online, the better ability to deliver that video stream in higher quality.
So a reputation-dependent system basically means that each node will have a number that is assigned to them, if you will, and that number is between zero and one. If you are a good actor in the network, you have a pretty high number like a 0.9, a 0.95, or 0.99. And if you’re a bad actor, in other words you’re not delivering the video stream to other people in your local area, if you’re not delivering high enough quality, et cetera, you may have a 0.1 or a 0.5 score, and the reputation score essentially determines how much money you can earn. So if you are a PC that has had un-utilized bandwidth and resources, and you have high reputation, you can earn much more data tokens than someone who is on the lower end of that.
So that’s what we describe as a reputation-based system. It’s a little bit, akin to Steemit, has a sort of a similar model. But in our case, it’s really behind the scenes at the protocol level.
BLOCK TRIBUNE: Okay, and what about the proof of engagement?
MITCH LIU: So the proof of engagement is a really important component in our system. If you look at video platforms today, particularly ad-supported video platforms like YouTube, Twitch, and Facebook, to some extent, they all have video ads. Either it pre-rolls before or during the video stream. Proof of engagemen, the only way that it can be implemented is through the decentralized blockchain. That is where we can actually, essentially, measure and guarantee when a video stream is delivered to an end-user to that particular PC, and is actually played.
The way we implement that is the proof of engagement has cryptographic puzzles, which are embedded within the video stream, the data packets in themselves. And as a viewer, when you’re watching a stream, the viewer can then extract those pieces of that cryptographic puzzle, right? That essentially, in itself, proves that the video stream has been delivered and has been played because, otherwise, you can’t extract that puzzle from within each of the blocks, if you will, each of the packets. It assembles that together into a puzzle, and then it solves it based on its proof of work, just like bitcoin, for instance, and it will solve that cryptographic puzzle, and that ensures the proof of engagement. Which is, in a way, soft of proof of watching the video stream.
BLOCK TRIBUNE: Okay. What are your advisers doing? I mean, obviously they’re advising, but how involved are they? Are they just lending their name to the project, or are they concretely getting hands-on in some fashion?
MITCH LIU: We have a pretty large advisory board… Of note is Steve and Justin. They’re pretty busy, so they are participating at different levels. Some of our advisers are very hands-on, and they are very involved. Others are left out. Both Steve and Justin really have taken an interest in our project, particularly from their experience in building large video and streaming platforms.
They really see the pinpoints, the problems. One of the problems, for instance, when YouTube got started way back when in 2005-2006, Steve basically shared with us and was like, you have to be able to grow and scale. The cost of delivering the video to different parts of the world is astronomical. I mean, the cost of using content-delivery networks like Akamai, Amazon CloudFront, and Google Finder, there’s a bunch of different solutions out there today… very, very expensive.
At the end of the day, if you’re standing in the middle of Brazil, Poland, or Russia, one of these sort of last-developed countries, you’re still sitting there for ten seconds before the stream actually loads. So, it’s a really bad user experience. He took particular interest in our solution, again leveraging the blockchain, and saying, “Hey, here’s a way we can democratize this whole infrastructure.” Whereas today, it’s very centralized and enabling end-users, or viewers, to be able to benefit from that. Both of them really decided that this could be the future of the video infrastructure, if you will. Again, this is more like a three-to-five-year time-frame.
BLOCK TRIBUNE: What will be the effect on my computer, if you’re tapping into me while I’m trying to use it? Will it degrade my performance significantly, or will it just be something that will be a minor thing?
MITCH LIU: That’s a good question. So, the DApp, the decentralized app that runs on the machine, there will be different settings for the end-user, right? And, by the way, this is completely known to the end-user. It’s not something that just downloads without the user knowing about it. It’s part of the whole network. It’s clear to users that they are, in fact, earning money, they are earning data tokens, for lending their computing resources.
So, basically the app will have a couple settings. One of the settings will be to automatically adjust the performance of my machine. Another one will be letting users pick ‘Don’t let my GPU or my CPU go above 80%, or 60%.’ So there will be a little threshold you can set. Or, ‘Don’t use more than “x” percent of my internet bandwidth,’ right? But behind the scenes, we are also tracking how much of your PC is actually being used at that point in time.
For instance, if you’re using a Word document, or Excel, or Google sheets, or whatever, you’re actually not using much of your bandwidth or your CPU. In that case, then you have much more room to work with. But if you’re watching videos, streaming, for instance, your download bandwidth is pretty much maxed out. Your upload bandwidth is not, at that point. So, at the same time you’re watching your favorite streamer Fandy, you’re also uploading that to other nodes in the network. And, of course, if you’re asleep, your computer is completely idle. At that point, we’re basically gonna say, “Hey look, we’re gonna max the ability to mine tokens and provide that functionality to the network.”
BLOCK TRIBUNE: Would you be at all affected by Net Neutrality issues? Obviously, about programs whereby larger websites would suck up more bandwidth, and pay more versus our smaller ones would pay more than larger ones because of bandwidth issues, et cetera. Does that affect you at all?
MITCH LIU: I think you’re referring more to the sites themselves, as opposed to ours, which is, you’re acting as a node in the network, so the end-user is saying that they’re running the app on their machine. Now, if you have a machine that’s a higher-end machine, like a fancy GPU, 1070-1080 GPU, that can solve these math problems, these cryptographic puzzles more effectively, you are in-fact solving the problem faster because you have better hardware. And, of course, if you’re using more electricity… because higher-processing machines uses more electricity, and therefore, you should be able to earn more. And if you have a low-end PC, then you’ll make less. That’s just the function of how many cycles it can crunch through to solve the puzzles. But, that’s really the only relevance in our scenario.
BLOCK TRIBUNE: What are the security concerns about allowing yourself to be open to a network like this?
MITCH LIU: So, we’re starting off with live-streams first. These are advertising supported live-streams, the YouTube, Twitch type of content, and Facebook, peer-to-peer streaming type of content. One thing we do, we’re very aware of and we’re careful about is premium content. Where there are content rights and content owners and holders, that will be a second phase to our project. That will come later because that involves a bunch of stuff that we don’t want to be dealing with right now.
So that’s from a content ownership standpoint, whereas free streams, anybody can stream from their phone, they can stream from their PC, or whatever the case is. So there’s much less issues on that front. To the individual, whose running their PC and sharing their resources, our data doesn’t persist. There’s some other parties out there, which are file-storage based solutions, kind of like a decentralized Dropbox, if you will. Like Filecoin, for example. There, you are actually storing some piece of data on your hard drive, which is kind of tricky, right? You have to be careful about all sorts of stuff there.
In our case, it’s all stored in memory. So when that video stream comes in, right through your Internet. It gets stored temporarily in RAM essentially, in your memory, and GPU, a combination of CPU processing and GPU, and RAM. And then that information, that live stream of video, those video packets are then pushed out through your outbound, your uplink, to other nodes so there’s nothing that persists on your PC.