VR gamers running NVIDIA’s newest RTX graphics cards will be able to take advantage of a new ‘Variable Rate Supersampling’ (VRSS) feature designed to increase the sharpness of VR games without reducing performance. The feature uses a foveated rendering approach which focuses sharpness toward the center of the lens without wasting extra processing power toward the edges where the image will be blurred by the lens anyway.

Taking advantage of the Variable Rate Shading capability of the ‘Turing’ architecture in Nvidia’s RTX GPUs, the company today announced and released a new feature called Variable Rate Supersampling (VRSS). The feature allows games to be supersampled for added sharpness and clarity, but only toward the center of the lens. This allows GPU rendering power to be spent where it matters most.

For VR enthusiasts, supersampling is a well known technique for increasing clarity when there’s GPU horsepower to spare. Traditional supersampling techniques render the entire image at a higher resolution than the target display, which can make a surprising difference to the clarity of fine details in today’s VR headsets. But traditional supersampling is computationally expensive, and if you crank the knobs too high, you’ll start missing frames (which leads to an uncomfortable experience in a VR headset).

VRSS is designed to be a more efficient supersampling method that’s specific to VR. It takes advantage of the fact that the lenses of most VR headsets have a narrow ‘sweet spot’—a small region where lens clarity is the greatest—while the image gets blurrier toward the edges of the lenses. The human eye itself also only sees in high detail in a small sweet spot in the center (called the fovea). It therefore doesn’t make much sense to spend extra processing power sharpening the blurry parts of the image, which is exactly the premise of VRSS.

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Image courtesy NVIDIA

VRSS uses Variable Rate Shading, a feature baked into RTX cards, to create a ‘foveated’ supersampling region at the center of the image while leaving the rest of the image alone. This means that GPU processing power can be more efficiently used to sharpen the center of the view. Nvidia says VRSS allows for more sharpness in the foveal region with less processing power.

NVIDIA test system specs: GeForce RTX 2080 Ti, Intel Core i7-6700K, 32GB, Windows 10, HTC Vive Pro | Image courtesy NVIDIA

Running on an Nvidia test system, the company claims that VRSS achieves 4x supersampling in Boneworks while maintaining a 120 FPS average, compared to roughly 75 FPS when using a traditional 4x supersample.

The feature is also designed to dynamically enable and scale according to available GPU power. If there’s extra processing power not being used, VRSS will supersample up to 8x, or disable itself entirely if necessary.

VRSS is available with the newest Nvidia drivers released today (you can download and install them through the GeForce Experience application). You’ll need to enable the feature in the Nvidia Control Panel; Nvidia recommends setting VRSS to ‘Adaptive’, and warns that using the ‘Always On’ feature may result in framerates dropping below the headset’s native rate.

Image courtesy NVIDIA

Unlikes previous foveated supersampling techniques from NVIDIA, like Lens Matched Shading, VRSS luckily doesn’t require specific integration with Nvidia GameWorks tools. However, there are some technical requirements: games must be based on DX11 or use forward renderers and support MSAA to work with VRSS.

Currently Nvidia is only enabling the feature for games which it has specifically tested, which is 26 at present:

  • Battlewake
  • Boneworks
  • Eternity Warriors VR
  • Hot Dogs, Horseshoes and Hand Grenades
  • In Death
  • Job Simulator
  • Killing Floor: Incursion
  • L.A. Noire: The VR Case Files
  • Lone Echo
  • Mercenary 2: Silicon Rising
  • Pavlov VR
  • Raw Data
  • Rec Room
  • Rick and Morty: Virtual Rick-ality
  • Robo Recall
  • SairentoVR
  • Serious Sam VR: The Last Hope
  • Skeet: VR Target
  • Shooting Space Pirate Trainer
  • Special Force VR: Infinity War
  • Spiderman: Far from Home
  • Spiderman: Homecoming – Virtual Reality Experience
  • Talos Principle VR
  • The Soulkeeper VR

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  • I’m guessing any video card that doesn’t start with “20” need not apply?

    This is the same stop-gap measure used on the Quest to squeeze out a bit more performance? I use it HEAVILY on my game QuestORama (available on SideQuest) to squeeze the most out of the hardware. It’s not terrible, but it’s not the eye tracking compression we really need.

    I hope it works better then that video shows. When VRSS is on, the image just looked more blurry. But the compression of the video on YouTube can be very unreliable at times.

    • scarlet

      probably youtube, SSAA by definition will not blur an image.

    • Raphael

      No. It was clearer with VRSS on. Maybe you need new eyes.

    • Trip

      As far as I know Quest doesn’t have foveated rendering at all. Only Oculus Go, unless I missed something. Also to answer your (possibly rhetorical) question the key is the “RTX” prefix, not the “20”

    • Schadows

      This is basically the opposite of what Occulus and Pimax do with their FFR.
      The image isn’t degraded the more you’re distancing from the center, but the opposite, the image is enhanced to more you go toward the center (well in reality there is just 2 resolutions here: normal and supersampled, not a gradient).

      It helps lowering the cost of supersampling, by not applying it to less sensible area of the image.

    • Jerald Doerr

      It’s hard see on a phone screen… But after checking it out on my TV can see it does what AA should do… Gets rid of the shimmer/over contrasty look makes looking through a chain chain-link look good instead of all shimmery/pixelated on the edges.

  • Frédéric Ilbaize

    latest drivers installed and there’s no option in the 3D management settings

    • Jerald Doerr

      ummmmm… I did the same thing.. than remember I don’t have a 20xx card…… im a 1080…. so I feel a bit dumb asking…. do you have a 20xx and the options still not coming up?

    • Lucas Cooper-Bey

      Same here. Im glad it not just me. 2080ti. Now what?

  • Serpher

    Tried newest drivers with RecRoom and… nothing. No such option available.

    • exbagboy

      It’s under program settings not global settings. Showed up for me.

  • Jarom Madsen

    Dang. Ok, RTX cards, NOW you have my attention.

    • Trip

      Right!? I will put an RTX GPU on the credit card the moment DCS World is added to the list of supported titles.

      • Schadows

        At least, this time it is managed at driver level. No need for the devs to implement it because they did implemented VRS (also brought with Turing architecture) which would have helped in basically the same way.

  • Andrew Jakobs

    Damn, you have to set it manually for every freaking game…

    • Trip

      That’s just a couple clicks though. The problem is that Nvidia aren’t allowing us to test it ourselves to see if it works, they are blocking it from being used on any game they haven’t tested and approved. There really should be a big red button with warnings that things are likely about to go horribly wrong rather then outright locking us out of it.

      • Andrew Jakobs

        I agree with you that they should allow you to set it manually for any game you want. But I hate having to tweak settings on a game to game base, especially if it’s outside the game (I install VR games from within VR).

  • Yeshaya

    Ugh I wish older cards could handle that, that seems like such a useful feature

  • Schadows

    Does someone know how it coexist with the game or SteamVR supersampling?
    Is it possible to “undersample” a little (nothing as drastic as VRS used for FFR currently) to lower quality on the edges, and supersampling would apply above the undersampled resolution, or does the VRSS apply on the 100% resolution, not considering SteamVR + game supersampling ?

    • Trip

      I would assume you could/would set the basic resolution lower, then let the supersampling utilized the saved computing power for the center region of the displays. Whether or not you’ll be able to set the resolution to less than native and have VRSS active at the same time I can’t say, but you certainly should be able to. Maybe they’ll assume that anyone with an RTX card has no need to downsample though, they don’t know flight sims like we do!

  • dota

    thumbs up
    yes foveation is the right way to go in VR/AR
    with foveation even less capable cards can go VR

  • Jerald Doerr

    OK…. I do have to say I’m sure this is something the 1080 and even lower cards could do just like RTX/ Path tracing but Nvidia locks us out to sell 20xx cards…. smart…… but not cool…

    And yes….. I fully understand 10xx can pathtrace but WAy slower…. this is just simple AA

    • crusnik

      No, multiple different rendering resolutions in the same frame without rendering the whole frame in each resolution is not possible to do without hardware support – which was introduced in the RTX series.
      Also pathtracing has been a thing for 40+ years. It’s been generally done on CPUs until recently and has been super slow. RTX adds hardware features which significantly improve raytracing performance. That’s the game changer.

      • Jerald Doerr

        Oh yeah, data… That makes since…

  • paleion

    Fantastic, will try this out later.

  • exbagboy

    Here are instructions on how to enable it on other games through nvidia profile inspector, this indie game developer figured it out.

    https://www.reddit.com/r/oculus/comments/ekweh1/ces_nvidia_drivers_adds_variable_rate_shading_for/fdkdqym/?utm_source=share&utm_medium=web2x

    I will do some testing later on but I was able to enable it in DCS World, VTOL VR and Dirt Rally 2.

  • Jose Veiras

    This is a great technical new path for game developers, but will only blow your mind of gamers if: the game is integrated with an eye tracking device like Tobii Eye Tracking, because the idea is to dynamically set the foveated rendering area around the position on screen where the user is looking, using only the center of the screen will accentuate the tunnel vision, and the user is pretty close to a massive screen or is using a VR headset that supports eye tracking like HTC Vive Pro Eye.