What is negative latency

Game streaming: Google works on "negative latency" for Stadia

One of the bigger problems with game streaming is the latency in input from the player, i.e. the long and slow transmission path from the mouse or gamepad via the many intermediate stations of a typical Internet connection to the server. Local hardware, be it a PC or a console, has structural advantages here.

  1. FLYERALARM Digital GmbH, W├╝rzburg
  2. HEINE Optotechnik GmbH & Co. KG, Gilching

But not for long, at least, says Madj Bakar, Head of Development at Google, who is responsible for Stadia, in an interview with the specialist magazine Edge.

Bakar assumes that due to the enormous computing capacities of the Stadia servers, something like "negative latency" gives. He doesn't just mean that the game streaming service inputs and processes it faster than with on-site hardware. Rather, Stadia could predict which command the user will enter next, even before the player's actual input, and thus extremely early.

In order for the system to be correct as often as possible, advanced machine learning is necessary - and, according to Bakar, the Stadia data centers could provide this, but no local hardware in this form.

However, most players should be familiar with the problems of such procedures: In many online games, for example, with lag (quite simple) predictions are calculated for which path a character has taken. As soon as their actual position data has arrived and there are deviations, these must be corrected. Then the figure is suddenly shifted in the environment - so-called rubberbanding. There could be something similar at Stadia.

However, Google has other options for minimizing input delays. Baker himself speaks of calculating the games on the servers with an extremely high frame rate. This is not transmitted to the player's monitor, but only serves to ensure that inputs can be accepted and processed as often as possible. This method has been used in competitive action games for years, such as Counter-Strike Global Offensive.

There are a number of other tricks Google could use to reduce latency on Stadia. It is already known, among other things, that the manufacturer's gamepad can connect to Google's servers via WLAN without detour via the PC, mobile phone or television, which also saves a few milliseconds. However, the controller is not a prerequisite for the service - ultimately every input device should work with it.

Stadia will start operations in November 2019. Access is then only available by purchasing a so-called Founders Edition for around 130 euros, plus a subscription for around 10 euros per month. A free basic version of Stadia will not be available until 2020.

If you want to know now whether your online access is fast enough, you can use a speed test provided by Stadia to find out.