EVGA Releases GeForce GTX 980 Ti VR Edition

Subject: Graphics Cards | February 10, 2016 - 05:59 PM |
Tagged: VR, vive vr, Oculus, evga, 980 Ti

You might wonder what makes a graphics card “designed for VR,” but this is actually quite interesting. Rather than plugging your headset into the back of your desktop, EVGA includes a 5.25” bay that provides 2x USB 3.0 ports and 1x HDMI 2.0 connection. The use case is that some users will want to easily connect and disconnect their VR devices, which, knowing a few indie VR developers, seems to be a part of their workflow. The same may be true of gamers, but I'm not sure.

evga-2016-980Ti-VR-Header_BG.jpg

While the bay allows for everything, including the HDMI plug via an on-card port, to be connected internally, you will need a spare USB 3.0 header on your motherboard to hook it up. It would have been interesting to see whether EVGA could have attached a USB 3.0 controller on the add-in board, but that might have been impossible (or unpractical) given that the PCIe connector would need to be shared with the GPU (not to mention the complexity of also adding a USB 3.0 controller to the board). Also, I expect motherboards should have at least one. If not, you can find USB 3.0 add-in cards with internal headers.

evga-2016-980ti.jpg

The card comes in two sub-versions, one with the NVIDIA-style blower cooler, and the other with EVGA's ACX 2.0+ cooler. I tend to prefer exposed fan GPUs because they're easier to blow air into after a few years, but you might have other methods to control dust.

Both are currently available for $699.99 on Newegg.com, while Amazon only lists the ACX2.0+ cooler version, and that's out of stock. It is also $699.99, though, so that should be what to expect.

Source: EVGA

Oculus Ready PC Pre-orders Announced, Include Rift Bundle

Subject: Systems | February 10, 2016 - 11:01 AM |
Tagged: VR, rift, preorder, Oculus, gaming pc

Oculus has announced an upcoming pre-order date for 'Oculus Ready PCs' from mainstream manufacturers, and these will be bundled with the Rift VR headset (and everything that comes with it).

oculus_ready_pcs_hero.jpg

(Image credit: Oculus)

“Today we’re excited to introduce the first Oculus Ready PCs from ASUS, Alienware, and Dell! These PCs have been battle tested and certified by Oculus to deliver an incredible Rift experience. We’re also thrilled to announce that starting February 16 at 8am Pacific Time, you can pre-order Oculus Ready PC and Rift bundles from Best Buy, Amazon, and theMicrosoft Store, starting at $1499 USD for a limited time only.

All bundles include an Oculus-certified PC and everything that comes with Rift – the headset, sensor, remote, an Xbox One controller, EVE: Valkyrie Founder’s Pack, and Lucky’s Tale!

Pre-orders for Oculus Ready and Rift bundles will ship in limited quantities to select countries and regions from retail partners starting in April.”

So what kind of gaming system are you getting for $1499? Of the ‘Oculus Ready’ PCs, the baseline specs across the board are an Intel Core i5-6400 processor and NVIDIA GeForce GTX 970 GPU, along with 8 GB of system memory. This is in keeping with Oculus’ published specifications from last summer: “The recommended PC specification is an NVIDIA GTX 970 or AMD 290, Intel i5-4590, and 8GB RAM."

Including the Rift VR bundle makes the price tag sound a lot nicer for what is otherwise a pretty basic gaming setup, as Rift costs $599 on its own. Still, is it worth $900 for a Core i5/GTX 970 gaming system? Factoring in a Windows license and all parts it's not a terrible value proposition, though most early adopters of this VR tech will likely not be starting completely from scratch.

A quick check on Amazon for the first system bundle listed shows “Currently Unavailable”, as pre-orders begin February 16 at 8:00am PST. You’ll be waiting even longer to have product in hand as the actual release date is April 23.

Source: Oculus

CES 2016: Oculus Price Announced and Pre-Orders Open

Subject: Displays, Shows and Expos | January 6, 2016 - 05:04 PM |
Tagged: Oculus, oculus rift, oculus touch, CES, CES 2016

Oculus has finally announced that the Rift will launch on March 28th for $599 USD. If you were an original backer on Kickstarter, then this kit will be given to you for free. DK2 purchasers do not receive this gift, but I guess the company was relatively established by that point. Pre-orders have now opened, although the kit will be available (albeit at “limited locations”) through typical retail channels in April. Finally, making good on their “$1500” announcement earlier this year, systems that meet the minimum requirements, and bundle the Oculus Rift, will be available for pre-order that start at $1499.

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Okay, so let's unpack this.

The elephant in the room is the price. It's steep. If you are even moderately patient, you can pick up a GeForce 980 Ti for the same amount. (As I write this, I'm looking at a Gigabyte 980 Ti with a custom cooler for $599.99 on Amazon.) For that price, you get the headset (with its two 1080x1200 OLED screens, microphone, and headphones), an Xbox One controller, a sensor, and a newly-announced Oculus Remote. You cannot purchase the Oculus Rift without an Xbox One controller, which is unfortunate for current owners of Xbox One controllers.

Who has two thumbs and bought an Xbox One Elite controller? This guy.

The benefit of including a (regular) Xbox One controller is that Oculus Rift developers can rely on each customer having access to a solid PC gamepad. Without it, some percentage of users might (and when you deal with large sample spaces, probability increasingly becomes a distribution) have just a mouse and keyboard. I'd also expect that Microsoft would provide them a bit of a discount for at least the volume, with the ties between Microsoft and Facebook possibly coming into play, too.

Unlike the HTC Vive, the Oculus Rift will not ship with its motion controller (called the “Oculus Touch”). That will be delayed until later in the year, which also means that some fraction of the user base will never have it. This is a concern for cross-compatibility between the Rift and the Vive, but not nearly as bad as it would have been if Oculus didn't have any motion control option at all. Developers would be looking at a “release on both Wii and PS2” situation, only with a (likely) much smaller install base.

And a final point: What about the other uses of Oculus?

oculus-2016-remote.jpg

The Oculus Remote controls the interface and media.

This announcement is gaming-centric, to say the very least. Oculus has said that the Rift is “primarily a gaming device” and, apparently, Palmer Luckey, founder of Oculus, strongly believes in gaming for the device. In my opinion though, it could be very useful, especially in professional applications. If the OLED screens have sufficient color and resolution, then desktop space becomes infinite. You don't need an additional monitor to map additional virtual space to your environment. While that's probably not something that Facebook could do alone, they could encourage the parties who influence these decisions with tech demos, peripherals, and so forth.

They still don't seem to be. This could be a concern since their primary competitors, Microsoft and even Valve/HTC, already have non-zero amounts of progress in that space. I'd be curious to hear whether they have any plans at all moving forward, even if those plans are to be reactionary.

Coverage of CES 2016 is brought to you by Logitech!

PC Perspective's CES 2016 coverage is sponsored by Logitech.

Follow all of our coverage of the show at http://pcper.com/ces!

Source: Oculus

CES 2016: NVIDIA talks SHIELD Updates and VR-Ready Systems

Subject: Graphics Cards, Shows and Expos | January 5, 2016 - 09:39 PM |
Tagged: vr ready, VR, virtual reality, video, Oculus, nvidia, htc, geforce, CES 2016, CES

Other than the in-depth discussion from NVIDIA on the Drive PX 2 and its push into autonomous driving, NVIDIA didn't have much other news to report. We stopped by the suite and got a few updates on SHIELD and the company's VR Ready program to certify systems that meet minimum recommended specifications for a solid VR experience.

For the SHIELD,  NVIDIA is bringing Android 6.0 Marshmallow to the device, with new features like shared storage and the ability to customize the home screen of the Android TV interface. Nothing earth shattering and all of it is part of the 6.0 rollout. 

The VR Ready program from NVIDIA will validate notebooks, systems and graphics cards that have the amount of horsepower to meet the minimum performance levels for a good VR experience. At this point, the specs essentially match up with what Oculus has put forth: a GTX 970 or better on the desktop and a GTX 980 (full, not 980M) on mobile. 

Other than that, Ken and I took in some of the more recent VR demos including Epic's Bullet Train on the final Oculus Rift and Google's Tilt Brush on the latest iteration of the HTC Vive. Those were both incredibly impressive though the Everest demo that simulates a portion of the mountain climb was the one that really made me feel like I was somewhere else.

Check out the video above for more impressions!

Coverage of CES 2016 is brought to you by Logitech!

PC Perspective's CES 2016 coverage is sponsored by Logitech.

Follow all of our coverage of the show at http://pcper.com/ces!

Source: NVIDIA

Meanwhile, Oculus Touch Won't Arrive Until 2H16

Subject: General Tech | December 31, 2015 - 07:49 PM |
Tagged: Oculus, oculus rift, oculus touch, vive vr

Valve and Oculus are targeting roughly the same window to release the consumer editions of their respective VR equipment. While technical information will likely wait until next week, we are hearing about delays ahead of CES. In the Vive's case, they couldn't afford to wait until the show, because it was supposed to launch in Holiday 2015. That has been revised to April.

oculus-2015-touchcontrollers1.jpg

But this is about Oculus. Their headset is still expected to arrive on time, which is enough for many experiences. The Xbox One controller is supposedly the default for this platform. This puts them out of the running for motion-control software, as seen on the Vive, though. Oculus is developing their own, called the Oculus Touch. They said they were launching without it and that it is optional. We now know that this will be in the second half of the year, which could be as early as the “few months after the Rift” as we were told, or as late as a year from now.

We're already hearing concerns about incompatibility between the two systems, since it will lead to some level of platform-exclusivity. Lead time could help a platform gain ground, unless consumers outright refuse to buy in to any of them in case it ends up being the Betamax or HD-DVD. I'm not sure what we, as consumers, can do to prevent any of these negative outcomes, but it's something we need to be mindful of, especially throughout 2016.

Source: Oculus

NVIDIA GameWorks VR 1.1 arrives with support for OpenGL VR SLI support and the Oculus SDK

Subject: Graphics Cards | December 21, 2015 - 01:04 PM |
Tagged: GameWorks VR 1.1, nvidia, Oculus, opengl, vive

If you are blessed with the good fortune of already having a VR headset and happen to be running an NVIDIA GPU then there is a new driver you want to grab as soon as you can.  The driver includes a new OpenGL extension that enables NVIDIA SLI support for OpenGL apps that display on an Oculus or Vive.  NVIDIA's PR suggests you can expect your performance to improve 1.7 times, not quite doubling but certainly offering a noticeable performance improvement.  The update is for both GeForce and Quadro cards.

vrlock.jpg

They describe how the update will generate images in their blog post here.  They imply that the changes to your code in order to benefit from this update will be minimal and it will also reduce the CPU overhead required to display the images for the right and left eye.  Read on if you are interested in the developer side of this update, otherwise download your new driver and keep an eye out for application updates that enable support for SLI in VR.

Source: NVIDIA

Mountain climbing with an Oculus

Subject: General Tech | December 16, 2015 - 12:58 PM |
Tagged: gaming, Oculus, crytek, the climb

Crytek announced their designed for Oculus game yesterday, The Climb.  As you might infer from the title of the game you will be scaling cliffs and mountains using either an Xbox One controller or Oculus Touch with your Oculus to experience something that would not be anywhere near as interesting on a computer monitor.  The disembodied hands are a little disturbing, though perhaps not as much as the heights will be for those who suffer from vertigo, though perhaps this would be an interesting way to try to conquer your fears.  The video below shows off the graphics, though not as immersive as it would be in VR it still looks rather interesting.  Many developers are looking to space sims to be the killer app for Oculus, for instance EVE Valkyrie come as part of the pre-order bundle shipped with the first consumer model.

Crytek might have just found the other style of game to interest people in the Oculus, extreme sports could be very compelling with the new VR headset.

"The Climb invites thrill-seekers to experience the ultimate in extreme sports by going beyond the point of no return and scaling deadly cliff faces unaided. The game boasts hyper-realistic climbing locations from around the world, and players will discover the freedom of gaming with the Rift using either an Xbox One controller or Oculus Touch controllers as they soak up their awe-inspiring surroundings."

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Source: The Climb

Samsung Announces New Gear VR at Oculus Connect

Subject: Mobile | September 26, 2015 - 10:00 PM |
Tagged: Samsung, oculus vr, Oculus, gear vr

Oculus Connect was last week, including a lengthy keynote on Thursday that featured Tim Sweeney, John Carmack, Michael Abrash, and others (even Mark Zuckerberg made an appearance). Within the first dozen minutes, they brought Peter Koo, Senior Vice President of Samsung Mobile, to the stage, who announced the new Samsung Gear VR. Its main advantage is that is supports more of their flagship phones than their previous model did, and, more interesting, for half the price of the previous version.

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The Gear VR is the first consumer version as they consider the previous one to be a developer kit -- err -- "Innovator Edition". It will support the Samsung Galaxy S6, S6 edge, S6 edge+, and the Galaxy Note 5. The device is lighter and “much more comfortable to wear” than its predecessor. It will cost $99, plus the cost of one of the aforementioned phones unless you were getting one for a different reason, and it will be available in November.

Source: Samsung

Upcoming Oculus SDK 0.7 Integrates Direct Driver Mode from AMD and NVIDIA

Subject: Graphics Cards | August 7, 2015 - 10:46 AM |
Tagged: sdk, Oculus, nvidia, direct driver mode, amd

In an email sent out by Oculus this morning, the company has revealed some interesting details  about the upcoming release of the Oculus SDK 0.7 on August 20th. The most interesting change is the introduction of Direct Driver Mode, developed in tandem with both AMD and NVIDIA.

sdk0.7.jpg

This new version of the SDK will remove the simplistic "Extended Mode" that many users and developers implemented for a quick and dirty way of getting the Rift development kits up and running. However, that implementation had the downside of additional latency, something that Oculus is trying to eliminate completely.

Here is what Oculus wrote about the "Direct Driver Mode" in its email to developers:

Direct Driver Mode is the most robust and reliable solution for interfacing with the Rift to date. Rather than inserting VR functionality between the OS and the graphics driver, headset awareness is added directly to the driver. As a result, Direct Driver Mode avoids many of the latency challenges of Extended Mode and also significantly reduces the number of conflicts between the Oculus SDK and third party applications. Note that Direct Driver Mode requires new drivers from NVIDIA and AMD, particularly for Kepler (GTX 645 or better) and GCN (HD 7730 or better) architectures, respectively.

We have heard NVIDIA and AMD talk about the benefits of direct driver implementations for VR headsets for along time. NVIDIA calls its software implementation GameWorks VR and AMD calls its software support LiquidVR. Both aim to do the same thing - give more direct access to the headset hardware to the developer while offering new ways for faster and lower latency rendering to games.

rift.jpg

Both companies have unique features to offer as well, including NVIDIA and it's multi-res shading technology. Check out our interview with NVIDIA on the topic below:

NVIDIA's Tom Petersen came to our offices to talk about GameWorks VR

Other notes in the email include a tentative scheduled release of November for the 1.0 version of the Oculus SDK. But until that version releases, Oculus is only guaranteeing that each new runtime will support the previous version of the SDK. So, when SDK 0.8 is released, you can only guarantee support for it and 0.7. When 0.9 comes out, game developers will need make sure they are at least on SDK 0.8 otherwise they risk incompatibility. Things will be tough for developers in this short window of time, but Oculus claims its necessary to "allow them to more rapidly evolve the software architecture and API." After SDK 1.0 hits, future SDK releases will continue to support 1.0.

Source: Oculus

Linux will be able to play Crysis

Subject: General Tech | June 22, 2015 - 07:05 PM |
Tagged: linux, CRYENGINE, Oculus

That's right, with the new CRYENGINE 3.8.1 release you will be able to make games using that engine which will run on Linux machines.  In theory any game which is moved to the new version should also offer Linux support although neither the Slashdot post nor the links within make it clear how much work would need to be done by the developers but the support now exists.  As well, support for Oculus Rift and games on Android TV have also been added, products which may help make Linux far more attractive for gamers and HTPC enthusiasts especially considering the coming demise of Microsoft's Media Centre in Windows 10.

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"CRYENGINE, the video game engine from Crytek, will run natively on Linux starting from version 3.8.1. Other improvements include the ability to run on the Oculus Rift, support for OpenGL, 8-weight GPU vertex skinning, and improved POM self-shadowing. Here are the full release notes. They've also added Game Zero, a full blown example game that demonstrates how various features of the engine can work."

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Source: Slashdot