Local game streaming is one of the most intriguing aspects of Valve's SteamOS, but it's not limited to that operating system. The feature is also designed to work between any two Steam-equipped PCs, and some lucky Steam users will soon be able to try it for themselves. A beta test is "coming soon," according to the official In-Home Streaming group on Steam. Interested users are encouraged to join the group to make themselves eligible for the beta. At least initially, participants will be selected at random from that group.
The Steam group already contains several posts with tidbits about the streaming functionality. We already knew that streaming would give SteamOS access to native PC games on local machines. We also knew that Valve wants streaming to allow powerful PCs to host game sessions for less potent rigs. However, I think this may be the first time the company has confirmed that gamers will be able to start playing a game on one system and then transfer that session to another device. Nifty.
Valve hasn't posted any hardware requirements, but it looks like the beta test is designed to provide some guidance on that front. "There is a huge variety in home hardware and network configurations, and we would like your help in learning about what works best," Valve says.
Network performance will probably be a key limitation. Valve has posted some nifty graphs illustrating the latency differences between a wired Gigabit Ethernet connection and a couple of different Wi-Fi networks. GigE connections and fast wireless setups should be responsive enough to deliver a good experience, according to Valve. Crowded or slower Wi-Fi networks may present problems, however.
The lack of specific GPU requirements for the host and client systems suggests that the streaming may be entirely software-based. It will be interesting to see if the scheme is capable of tapping into the dedicated video encoding and decoding hardware built into the latest graphics chips.