At GTC Europe in Amsterdam last month, NVIDIA’s ‘VR Village’ was host to a number of cutting-edge virtual reality demos, many of which we’ve had our hands on before. But there was something new being shown behind closed doors.

No cameras were permitted inside the booth, nor am I at liberty to say which brand was involved. Having no idea what to expect, I donned a Vive headset, and found myself in a typical 3D modelling environment (a grey void), standing next to a model of a popular four-door family sedan.

At first glance, there was nothing out of the ordinary here. Standing at arm’s reach from the side of the car, the model was obviously accurate, but being untextured, with no realistic material shaders or fancy lighting effects, it looked fairly bland. I was instructed to get close to the driver’s side window and peer in, and it became apparent that this was modelled to an unusually high level of detail. But only when I switched to the driver’s seat were the true capabilities of this model revealed.

gtc-europe-vr-village-img_04481Leaning around the steering wheel, I start to admire the control stalks, with their white markings for indicators and wipers. These markings, barely a millimetre across, are not textures, but a raised surface made from polygons. Before I have time to process this, the ‘clipping sphere’ has been activated. This creates invisible spheres around the motion controllers which effortlessly cut through the vehicle’s geometry. My jaw is immediately on the floor—this isn’t an empty shell; every layer of material is modelled. Clipping slowly through the centre of the steering wheel, I’m peeling away layers of plastic and metal, revealing the full complexity of the airbag system. The level of detail is ridiculous.

Next, the whole model is scaled up and I’m standing inside the brake system, followed by the engine bay. Every component is here, not just on the surface, but all of it. This isn’t the first time the concept of clipping through a car model has been successful—Audi embrace it as a feature of their VR showroombut this is on a whole new level, made for analysing full CAD data with sub-millimetre precision.

NVIDIA Says New Foveated Rendering Technique is More Efficient, Virtually Unnoticeable

A freeform travel mode allows full exploration, operated with one motion controller, controlling direction of movement with tilt, and speed with the analogue trigger. This is actually an interesting locomotion solution in itself, minimising motion sickness due to the tight user control. I fly through the ventilation system, and into a speaker grille. Every hole in the mesh is circular, with no obvious polygon angles. A few micro layers deeper, I find a hidden Bose logo on the speaker cone. Next, I’m staring in disbelief at the stitching on the seats. Each stitch is smooth and curved, which I assume must be due to tessellation but no, I’m told no on-the-fly tessellation was used. The stitching for a single seat has around 1.4 million triangles; a single stitch loop has around 180 triangles.

I look at the seat belt connector, which contains the complex clip and release mechanism then head towards the rear view mirror, and peel back the layers. Inside is a small cable connection, and of course, a tiny serial number stamped into the plastic. I could’ve spent hours in this car, marvelling at every detail.

Nvidia didn't let us take any photos of the Discovery experience

At this point, I’m shown how elements can be sorted by material, for instance, just the rubber. A vast number of rubber pieces are found throughout a car, from tiny gaskets and intricate cabling to bigger elements like the door and window seals, and the spare tyre. Then, the plastics. Turns out modern cars are full of the stuff. Finally I’m shown Explosion Mode, where each part moves in one of 6 directions, showing the vast number of objects the car is composed of, and to demonstrate that every object can not only be rendered, but also animated.

Quite simply, it’s the most detailed car model I’ve ever seen. For some perspective, the stunning models found in games such as Driveclub, Project CARS, Gran Turismo and Forza Motorsport tend to have anywhere between 250,000 and 1 million polygons. The model on display here had 67.2 million, according to the creators. And, unlike many other industry-orientated demos of high-quality models, there were no framerate issues, running at a rock-solid 90 FPS, with 4x supersampling and 2xMSAA. Needless to say, it was running on a ultra high-performance PC with a pair of Nvidia’s Quadro P6000 GPUs. The new Pascal-based flagship Quadro cards are now available through PNY, with OEM systems coming later in the year.

NVIDIA Demonstrates Experimental "Zero Latency" Display Running at 1,700Hz

But even with the most powerful GPUs on tap, it required a new approach to culling explains Dave Weinstein, Director of Professional Virtual Reality at Nvidia.

“Nvidia built a proprietary reference OpenGL-based render pipeline. To make simultaneous use of both P6000s, it incorporates VR SLI (through the GL_NV_GPU_multicast extension), a component of the NVIDIA VRWorks SDK. The rendering is done through command lists (using the GL_NV_command_list extension), which are generated by an on-GPU culling algorithm,” he said. “This technique allows us to cull and render without a readback to the CPU. Combining VR SLI and culling with command lists actually results in both GPUs rendering a slightly different scene, since each GPU culls for its own view.”

This technology will undoubtedly play a big role in the future of industrial design and engineering. Once embraced by the manufacturing industries, this level of interactivity should be straightforward to implement. Indeed, the confidential CAD data supplied for this project arrived as a polygon model in VRED-compatible format, and converting the data to Nvidia’s format was an “easy, automated task,” I’m told. Being able to reference and study a complex model in VR with such detail, ease, and comfort is truly compelling, and makes a strong case for professional graphics performance in engineering environments.

Disclosure: Nvidia paid for accommodation for one Road to VR correspondent to attend an event where information for this article was gathered.

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  • Get Schwifty!

    OMG I so want to see this myself after reading…. and to think there are still people going “I dunno if VR is going to take off or we have to wait 10 more years” when there is this kind of application work going on out there. A revolution of sorts is going to happen over a relatively short time with a number of fields where VR is exceptionally handy, such as manufacturing, medicine, art and general visual entertainment.

    • Bob

      A highly detailed stripper club would be the killer app that everybody is looking for.

      • JustNiz

        Not really sure I want to see all the parts inside a stripper though.

        • Demongo

          ” … and then I dived inside until I could see the manufacturers mark ‘Mentor’ … “

      • Get Schwifty!

        I can just imagine it – in 2040 – GTA XXV – Full VR with light field strip clubs….

    • OgreTactics

      Nope. NOBODY gives a shit about that, and industrial design alone is not enough for VR to pick-up.

  • Ian Shook

    Why do you think they didn’t show materials? It seems they’re more than capable. It might’ve made it 2x as good, no?

    • kontis

      1. It’s a CAD model. They always use a very simple shading and no textures.

      2. It’s much easier for a GPU to render millions of polygons with primitive shading than a single square with physically correct reflections.

  • Ian Shook

    What was the shadow data like? Real soft shadows? just ‘scene lights’?

  • DiGiCT Ltd

    As far as i seen 2 months ago a company that works very close with PTC for doing VR realtime engineering presentations gave as well vive as well rift hmd a try running it.
    I hope they solved the issues those consumer HMD have as what those people showed and told me was far from possible to use a vive or a rift for those purpuses, espcialy when you want to run relatime physics demostration with it.
    They showed me and demoed me what they use and that was just really awesome to expierence rather then an HMD, they used a huge TV screen with 3d glasses instead and some strange tracked controller strip mounted on the glasses to see your position.
    The same for the controlers that they used.

    I hope they realy did make it, as there is a big market for this, but as those guys showed me, a cad model can have trillions of polygons and thats not like we see in VR now.
    Every knot and bolt any piece you can imagine till the smalles t detail be rendered in real time, but not in consumer VR, it simply does not have the performance for it and it lags and even in some cases just crashes the entire VR aplication.

    The thing that was not available that time was the pascal cards , but if they could realy take that amount of load more compared to a titanx that time, i wonder but i would be very interested to see it.

    • Raphael

      a giant tv is just what we don’t want. VR is compact and will eventually have unnoticeable pixels. so you’ve seen a giant tv and now think it’s the future. it’s not.

      • Pistol Pete

        They are definitely different routes that they are aiming for. I have always wanted a PC room where the entire surrounding walls are one massive screen, like the movie “Gamer” But you are talking about massive amounts of money for a screen like that in the future even when it is feasible. And the massive amount of pixels that you have to compute. Definitely VR is aimed for the masses.

      • Andrew Jakobs

        replacing the LCD’s with DLP’s would already fix the noticeable pixels (which mostly is noticeable due to the screendoor effect, which even with DLP @ 720p is far FAR less than the current headsets have, going DLP @ 1080p (or slightly higher) would even make then unnoticeable).
        DLP even has a much higher possible refreshrate..

  • As a 3D designer for many years, I always had the struggle between Pro cards vs GeForce cards and the huge price difference. Many designers kept asking why (and then hacking Geforces so the system would see them as a Quadro) and the usual response was drivers, support, enabled OpenGL extensions etc but not speed or performance.

    About 10 years ago I spent £800 on a second hand Quadro card for my work and although it was rock solid I felt very let down at the viewport speed. A year after buying it I bought a GTX card for a few hundred pounds, it was just as good on heavy scenes and viewport animation went up by about 200%, productivity was massively boosted. Realtime feedback is critical in CAD design.

    Now I have a couple of AMD FirePro cards in my current workstation. OpenCL never kicked off like CUDA. In hindsight, waste of money compared to GTX cards yet again.

    So until I see some major hardware (not software) differences to justify the cost of pro cards I will stick to the vastly cheaper high-end gaming cards for professional work.

    • Steve

      > I will stick to the vastly cheaper high-end gaming cards for professional work

      Simply put. Is it okay for your renders to be approximately correct? – the answer will dictate which card you should get.

      • That’s a myth. They render exactly the same. Precision is the same. It is all about drivers and support. Prove me wrong and I will be interested :)

  • JustNiz

    Is this demo available for download anywhere?