The VR news is coming thick and fast this week and with just a few hours until nVidia’s ‘Made to Game’ event, AMD has dropped news of it’s brand new initiative for streamlining the development and enjoyment of virtual reality – an SDK named ‘Liquid VR’.
AMD have so far been slow to launch its assault on the VR space, seemingly allowing its arch rival the lead. nVidia announced its ‘VR Direct’ initiative last year with a raft of featured designed to appeal to VR enthusiasts and developers alike.
That said, perhaps biding it’s time was AMD’s plan all along. nVidia has arguably not made the best impression by entering the VR ‘market’ early – with it’s GPU specific features slow to reach maturity and has attracted criticism that it jumped in a little too early.
At a special event held at GDC in San Francisco today, AMD announced it was finally to enter the fray with a new initiative designed to take some of the headaches out of developing for and using VR hardware, presumably with it’s own GPUs and drivers.
‘Liquid VR’ is a Software Development Kit and driver framework which tries to add Plug and Play features for VR hardware. Liquid adds discrete device support for VR Headsets, so that when you plug your Oculus Rift in, it isn’t just recognised as a generic display. AMD claim this will be available for ‘multiple’ VR headsets, so this isn’t a Rift exclusive feature.
Another headline feature was the ability for Liquid VR to add ‘native’ VR support to operating systems. Precisely how this will manifest itself is as yet unclear, although it wouldn’t be too much of a stretch to imagine something similar to the excellent VR Desktop application, allowing you to view and work on your desktop through your chosen headset. This would be a real boon for developers switching in and out of a VR application during a debugging session.
Probably the biggest win in terms of potential performance and experiential advances for VR developers though is the ability Liquid VR gives to render direct to the VR display’s front buffer. VR is highly dependent on cutting down the so-called ‘motion to photons’ time – that is, the time between actions resulting in images in a VR display. Layers of driver and operating system APIs add to this latency. Rendering direct to a VR display cuts out the middle man meaning you as a VR user gets the most current view of the virtual world possible. Lower latency means less chance of simulation sickness and a potentially more immersive experience.
We’ll bring you more details on AMD’s Liquid VR when we have it. The Road to VR team are on site at GDC 2015 all week. And we have a feeling there’s a lot more virtual reality news yet to come.