nvivida geforce gtx 980 virtual reality 2

We knew it was coming and it looks like Nvidia is the first to throw their hat into the ring, now being the first of the big GPU manufacturers to design their latest processors with VR in mind. Nvidia’s latest GPUs, built on the new Maxwell architecture, offer a number of features specifically designed to enhance virtual reality rendering performance in both latency and fidelity.

It was back in June that founder Palmer Luckey told me that Oculus was “directly working with hardware manufacturers on all kind of optimizations.” Today we see the fruits of that work with Nvidia’s latest GPUs, the GTX 970 and 980, built with the new Maxwell architecture.

See Also: Two Reasons You Will Want to Buy a New Gaming Rig for the Oculus Rift CV1

Oculus CTO John Carmack surmised his frustration in the latency of the standard GPU rendering pipeline by noting that he can send a data packet from the US to Europe and back in the amount of time it takes to get a frame from the back of his computer to the monitor. Nvidia’s new optimizations are aimed at both cutting down latency and improving visual fidelity for a high quality VR experience.

“Typically, it takes 50 milliseconds or more to render a scene in a virtual reality environment, from the time you move your head to the time you see a response,” writes Nvidia. “Maxwell cuts that latency in half.”

In a post on the company’s official blog, Nvidia lists the new features that have been designed with VR in mind:

  • Baseline Latency: Our engineers worked to cut all aspects of the connection between the game and the GPU, significantly improving latency.
  • MFAA: Using a new technology called multi-frame sampled anti-aliasing, or MFAA, Maxwell can combine many AA sample positions, producing what appears to be a higher-quality image. And it does this without the performance hit caused by other anti-aliasing technologies.
  • Asynchronous Warp: This starts with the last scene rendered, and lets the GPU update it based on head position information. By warping the image later in the rendering pipeline, Maxwell cuts discontinuities between head movement and action on screen. And by doing it asynchronously, it avoids stalling the GPU, robbing it of performance.
  • SLI: We’re also tuning the way our GPUs work together when they’re paired to drive virtual reality experiences. In the past, our GPUs would alternate rendering frames when joined in SLI mode. For VR, we’re changing the way our GPUs work in SLI, with each GPU rendering one display.
  • DSR: With the displays in a VR headset resting close to the user’s eyes, higher resolution can improve the VR experience. Dynamic Super Resolution (DSR) – which we’re introducing with Maxwell – helps us take the resolution from 1 megapixel per eye to 4 megapixels per eye.
  • GeForce Experience: Rather than asking users to tweak all these settings when using VR, we’re implementing them to run automatically with our GeForce Experience software.
  • Optimized Content: Few applications support VR headsets. So we’re bringing VR support to games that already work with NVIDIA 3D Vision.
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This is great news not just for those that will pick up one of Nvidia’s newest cards (or a pair, in the case of SLI) but also for the VR industry as a whole. With a new focus on virtual reality from one of the world’s largest manufacturers of GPUs, the rest of the GPU industry will take note, and will likely unleash similar offering to appeal to the VR crowd.

Check out the video below for a look at Nvidia’s new tech:

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Ben is the world's most senior professional analyst solely dedicated to the XR industry, having founded Road to VR in 2011—a year before the Oculus Kickstarter sparked a resurgence that led to the modern XR landscape. He has authored more than 3,000 articles chronicling the evolution of the XR industry over more than a decade. With that unique perspective, Ben has been consistently recognized as one of the most influential voices in XR, giving keynotes and joining panel and podcast discussions at key industry events. He is a self-described "journalist and analyst, not evangelist."
  • George

    Pretty interesting about the SLI bit, wonder how well they will get it to work. I curious how much work they are putting into the “Optimized Content” part.

  • seektruth2

    I wonder how well their VR support will be compared to vorpx or VIREio Perception. They did stereo 3d fairly well for most games but VR is quite a challenge. Obviously games designed for VR are going to be much better but it will be a while till we see major studios supporting it so middleware is a good option for the time being. I also really like how well GeForce Experience works with my current card as it makes the pc more like a console and takes some of the guesswork out of tweaking settings.

    I think Voxel Global Illumination is going to be great to make lighting look much less flat. It’s a really neat way to simplify complex lighting and bridge the gap between real raytracing. I believe this will be great for improving presence in vr as light will now act like it does in real life.

    Nice to see that they are working on lowering latency for vr use. At $330, GTX 970 it is likely going to be the most popular card for virtual reality for quite some time. I’m guessing AMD is quite worried as they will need to do a lot of R&D to catch up especially on low power consumption.

    • laser632

      Different thing altogether. Nvidia VR increases VR performance significantly. VorpX and Vireio persuade non-vr games to work in VR. Completely different functions. Nvidia VR is fully operational in their drivers now but you won’t see the performance gains until developers code the new features into games.

  • Artinion

    If the bullet point about DSR (Dynamic Super Resolution) is correct then NVIDIA is planning ahead for the CV2. This is high speculation on my part, and not well informed speculation at that, but!

    I read an article at the beginning of the year, that stated Samsung would release a 2560×1440 AMOLED smartphone by the end of 2014. That came to pass this month with the Galaxy note 4. The DK2 at 1920×1080 is about one megapixel per eye. If the CV1 uses the note 4 screen that pushes the need to 1.8 megapixel per eye.

    That same article stated that Samsung would have an Ultra HD 3840×2160 smartphone display in 2015. If that comes to pass and the CV2 or CV3 uses that screen it comes out to slightly above 4.1 megapixels per eye.

    Since the bullet point states they are pushing it from 1megapixel up to 4 megapixel, I’m just reading between the lines and hoping for the best. (that CV1 has the Ultra HD screen, one can always dream can’t one!)

    • I_Did_My_Best

      The DSR technology will not “give you” more resolution. It’ll be just “another” anti-alliasing, for older games at first since they were never meant to be played in 2K/4K. It will be a nice anti-alliasing, yeah, but it won’t resolve the problems as to “why” people think the resolution from the Dk2 isn’t enough (and maybe even the dk3/cv1 won’t either, if its 1440p), its all about the “physical” resolution, the one that noone can change without changing the screen itself. You cannot trick the eye with this, maybe with lens, but not by software.

      But of course, the world isn’t ready for 4k, at all. We will need to wait for Nvidia’s next gen to get “decent frames” for normal gaming, not even talking about getting these 90 frames per second (or more?).
      Oculus needs to wait a bit more, IMO, to get out and be successful with “not enthusiast’ gamers, since not many people will want to get 2 new graphics card “just” to be able to look around in 5 demos and 3 incoming AAA games. And minecraft.
      Let’s dream about DX12, either it will save us all, or we’ll die before it comes out :p