VR is shaping up to be the next big thing in technology. AMD’s Global Head of VR and Software Marketing, Sasa Marinkovic took some time to talk to us about how AMD is a leader in this emerging industry.
VR or Virtual Reality is likely a term or technology people are or will become familar with, as the VR industry is taking off. How is AMD a leader in the overall VR ecosystem?
Virtual reality is about to transform the world as we know it. For instance, using VR technology, people will be able to walk around, pause, rewind, and see historic events from different vantage points. Every detail can be thoroughly researched and reproduced. The viewer becomes part of the plot, lives the characters, and can help the viewer achieve a visceral experience of news and documentaries so they can feel what it’s like to actually be there. The technology can enable us to figuratively walk in another’s shoes, leading to greater understanding and empathy. AMD’s innovative LiquidVR™ technology enables beautifully rich and immersive VR experiences by simplifying and optimizing VR content creation, unlocking many unique AMD hardware features designed to work seamlessly with VR headsets. AMD delivers that great VR experience, which requires very fast graphics processing, high image resolutions, low latencies, and great visual quality, all while virtually eliminating processing lag times, graphics frame-dropping, or slow response to events or stimuli within the virtual world.
We designed this technology for both the end consumer and developer. AMD is making these powerful capabilities available to the creators of VR content, who in turn will create stunning content with amazing visual fidelity for the best possible VR experience on AMD GPUs, APUs, and CPUs. Leveraging the Radeon™ VR Ready Premium GPUs allows the VR experience to become truly lifelike for the user.
For the developer community, we are empowering programmers to deliver stunning content, compatibility, and advanced usability. For example, Crytek’s first VR gaming foray, Back to the Dinosaur Island 2, was a mammoth undertaking – to recreate a prehistoric Earth, replete with dinosaurs and vegetation and terrains, and fully immerse players within this bygone world.
For the end users, we also released a new Radeon™ VR Ready Premium logo designed to enable our partners to help make the purchase decision easier. The Radeon VR Ready Premium GPUs include the Radeon™ R9 Fury Series, Radeon™ R9 Nano, and Radeon™ R9 390 Series GPUs.
What is the AMD advantage over other competitors in the graphics market for VR?
There are 3 major advantages we have: hardware, software, and content/partnerships.
Graphics Core Next has a major advantage with asynchronous shaders support for DirectX® 12. Async shaders help to reduce latency, which happens when the image in the head-mounted display does not sync with head movement. Reducing the latency can make the difference between good and bad VR experience.
Additionally, AMD’s Affinity Multi GPU technology (which is part of LiquidVR) scales very well with VR. In a 2 GPU setup, a GPU can be assigned to each eye, maximizing the feeling of “presence” – that you are actually in the VR environment.
Second, we believe in opening up software and building strong relationships with developers. This sets us apart from the competition. GPUOpen is an AMD initiative designed to enable developers to create ground-breaking PC games, computer-generated imagery, and GPU computing applications for great performance and lifelike experiences using no-cost, open development tools and software. Head to GPUopen.com to see what we’re working on.
Third, we have engaged with industry leading companies such as The Associated Press, Crytek, General Electric, The Smithsonian, Microsoft, Rebellion, and more to further the VR ecosystem. Radeon™ GPUs are becoming central to the experience of developing and enjoying great content.
Can you expand on the relationship between DX12, Async Shaders, and LiquidVR?
Let’s take a step back to understand why VR is so demanding on your GPU. A game running at 1080p (the resolution of most HD TVs) needs to be 30-60fps to look good for standard gaming. In VR, you’ll need double that, one for each eye, so 2x 1080p and at least 90fps is desired to minimize latency issues.
DX12 is a hugely efficient API which minimizes latency and allows developers to take advantage of our asynchronous shaders and concurrent operations - for example, processing special effects on the compute engine while outputting via the graphics engine. When visual effects or other operations are run simultaneously or in parallel with each other (instead of one after the other), the chance for latency to occur is reduced.
In many ways, VR is similar to another recent technology trend: 3D. It needs specific hardware and for gaming, a headset and high spec PC. What will prevent VR from traveling the same path as 3D, which has struggled with mainstream adoption?
Very often these days, there’s a new story about how investment has been poured into the industry and how hundreds of developers are working on VR projects. It goes beyond just movies or gaming. VR has moved into areas such as medicine, education, and design. This mass appeal is what will help it move past the barriers that have hindered 3D.
Finally, do you have one standout experience with VR you would like to share?
I’ve had great experiences with many of the head mounted display vendors and types of content, ranging from games to education. Recently, AMD consulted with the Smithsonian in producing a VR experience that shows the details the first flight of the Wright Brothers. We are also seeing medical researchers gain an insight into the physicality of the human brain. With digital, interactive models that enable you to look around and interact with the model, research can head in new directions to open up new possibilities and enhance our world.