The problem with cryptocurrency mining is that most "coins" become harder to mine as they grow in popularity. This means that miners often buy a bunch of graphics cards, mine as much of the hottest new cryptocurrency as possible, and then settle for lower payouts until mining the coins doesn't even bring in enough money to offset the costs. A startup called Vectordash wants to help those people recoup their investments.
TechCrunch reported yesterday that Vectordash, which is part of the popular Y Combinator startup program, will let people with high-end GPUs rent them out to enable the company's cloud-based gaming service. Similar platforms exist--and game streaming is becoming increasingly popular with large companies--but Vectordash wants to reduce the upfront costs of starting one of these services by using these underutilized graphics cards.
The company reportedly plans to pay between $65 and $105 per month for the rights to use someone's GPU. Then it will charge people who don't have dedicated graphics cards $28 per month to stream games from its platform. Vectordash is specifically targeting Mac owners, presumably because many of Apple's products only feature integrated graphics, but we wouldn't be surprised if PC users will be invited in at some point.
Vectordash makes some pretty boastful claims on its website: the company said that its platform "gives you unlimited access to terabytes of games without having to install them locally" and allows you to "play the latest AAA-titles in 4K at 60 FPS." TechCrunch clarified that Vectordash would limit performance based on the user's location, and because it wants to limit latency to 20-30ms, will only be available in the Bay Area to start.
The service seems like the latest member of the so-called "sharing economy." Companies like Lyft and Airbnb and countless others raised ungodly amounts of money on the premise that people could rent out the stuff they don't use to make a little bit of side money. (Many of the services have actually morphed into gig-based platforms that people rely on to make a living, but that's beside the point.) Vectordash wants to do that with GPUs.
Whether or not it will be successful largely depends on its ability to deliver the performance it's promised before launch. We can't help but wonder how the company will fare if another cryptocurrency becomes popular, giving miners something to use all these graphics cards for that will pay out more than $105 per month at most. But, at least for the moment, the cryptocurrency bust could be Vectordash's gain if miners dig the platform.
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Nathaniel Mott is a freelance news and features writer for Tom's Hardware US, covering breaking news, security, and the silliest aspects of the tech industry.