IDF 2016: Intel Project Alloy Promises Untethered VR and AR Experiences

Subject: General Tech, Processors, Displays, Shows and Expos | August 16, 2016 - 01:50 PM |
Tagged: VR, virtual reality, project alloy, Intel, augmented reality, AR

At the opening keynote to this summer’s Intel Developer Forum, CEO Brian Krzanich announced a new initiative to enable a completely untether VR platform called Project Alloy. Using Intel processors and sensors the goal of Project Alloy is to move all of the necessary compute into the headset itself, including enough battery to power the device for a typical session, removing the need for a high powered PC and a truly cordless experience.

01.jpg

This is indeed the obvious end-game for VR and AR, though Intel isn’t the first to demonstrate a working prototype. AMD showed the Sulon Q, an AMD FX-based system that was a wireless VR headset. It had real specs too, including a 2560x1440 OLED 90Hz display, 8GB of DDR3 memory, an AMD FX-8800P APU with R7 graphics embedded. Intel’s Project Alloy is currently using unknown hardware and won’t have a true prototype release until the second half of 2017.

There is one key advantage that Intel has implemented with Alloy: RealSense cameras. The idea is simple but the implications are powerful. Intel demonstrated using your hands and even other real-world items to interact with the virtual world. RealSense cameras use depth sensing to tracking hands and fingers very accurately and with a device integrated into the headset and pointed out and down, Project Alloy prototypes will be able to “see” and track your hands, integrating them into the game and VR world in real-time.

02.jpg

The demo that Intel put on during the keynote definitely showed the promise, but the implementation was clunky and less than what I expected from the company. Real hands just showed up in the game, rather than representing the hands with rendered hands that track accurately, and it definitely put a schism in the experience. Obviously it’s up to the application developer to determine how your hands would actually be represented, but it would have been better to show case that capability in the live demo.  

03.jpg

Better than just tracking your hands, Project Alloy was able to track a dollar bill (why not a Benjamin Intel??!?) and use it to interact with a spinning lathe in the VR world. It interacted very accurately and with minimal latency – the potential for this kind of AR integration is expansive.

Those same RealSense cameras and data is used to map the space around you, preventing you from running into things or people or cats in the room. This enables the first “multi-room” tracking capability, giving VR/AR users a new range of flexibility and usability.

04.jpg

Though I did not get hands on with the Alloy prototype itself, the unit on-stage looked pretty heavy, pretty bulky. Comfort will obviously be important for any kind of head mounted display, and Intel has plenty of time to iterate on the design for the next year to get it right. Both AMD and NVIDIA have been talking up the importance of GPU compute to provide high quality VR experiences, so Intel has an uphill battle to prove that its solution, without the need for external power or additional processing, can truly provide the untethered experience we all desire.

NVIDIA's New Quadro VR Ready Program Targets Enterprise

Subject: Graphics Cards | April 4, 2016 - 09:00 AM |
Tagged: workstation, VR, virtual reality, quadro, NVIDIA Quadro M5500, nvidia, msi, mobile workstation, enterprise

NVIDIA's VR Ready program, which is designed to inform users which GeForce GTX GPUs “deliver an optimal VR experience”, has moved to enterprise with a new program aimed at NVIDIA Quadro GPUs and related systems.

NVIDIA_VR.png

“We’re working with top OEMs such as Dell, HP and Lenovo to offer NVIDIA VR Ready professional workstations. That means models like the HP Z Workstation, Dell Precision T5810, T7810, T7910, R7910, and the Lenovo P500, P710, and P910 all come with NVIDIA-recommended configurations that meet the minimum requirements for the highest performing VR experience.

Quadro professional GPUs power NVIDIA professional VR Ready systems. These systems put our VRWorks software development kit at the fingertips of VR headset and application developers. VRWorks offers exclusive tools and technologies — including Context Priority, Multi-res Shading, Warp & Blend, Synchronization, GPU Affinity and GPU Direct — so pro developers can create great VR experiences.”

Partners include Dell, HP, and Lenovo, with new workstations featuring NVIDIA professional VR Ready certification. 

Pro VR Ready Deck.png

Desktop isn't the only space for workstations, and in this morning's announcement NVIDIA and MSI are introducing the WT72 mobile workstation; the “the first NVIDIA VR Ready professional laptop”:

"The MSI WT72 VR Ready laptop is the first to use our new Maxwell architecture-based Quadro M5500 GPU. With 2,048 CUDA cores, the Quadro M5500 is the world’s fastest mobile GPU. It’s also our first mobile GPU for NVIDIA VR Ready professional mobile workstations, optimized for VR performance with ultra-low latency."

Here are the specs for the WT72 6QN:

  • GPU: NVIDIA Quadro M5500 3D (8GB GDDR5)
  • CPU Options:
    • Xeon E3-1505M v5
    • Core i7-6920HQ
    • Core i7-6700HQ
  • Chipset: CM236
  • Memory:
    • 64GB ECC DDR4 2133 MHz (Xeon)
    • 32GB DDR4 2133 MHz (Core i7)
  • Storage: Super RAID 4, 256GB SSD + 1TB SATA 7200 rpm
  • Display:
    • 17.3” UHD 4K (Xeon, i7-6920HQ)
    • 17.3” FHD Anti-Glare IPS (i7-6700HQ)
  • LAN: Killer Gaming Network E2400
  • Optical Drive: BD Burner
  • I/O: Thunderbolt, USB 3.0 x6, SDXC card reader
  • Webcam: FHD type (1080p/30)
  • Speakers: Dynaudio Tech Speakers 3Wx2 + Subwoofer
  • Battery: 9 cell
  • Dimensions: 16.85” x 11.57” x 1.89”
  • Weight: 8.4 lbs
  • Warranty: 3-year limited
  • Pricing:  
    • Xeon E3-1505M v5 model: $6899
    • Core i7-6920HQ model: $6299
    • Core i7-6700HQ model: $5499

MSI_NB_WT72_Skylake_Photo18.jpg

No doubt we will see details of other Quadro VR Ready workstations as GTC unfolds this week.

Source: NVIDIA

Video Perspective: HTC Vive Pre First Impressions

Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards | March 26, 2016 - 12:11 AM |
Tagged: VR, vive pre, vive, virtual reality, video, pre, htc

On Friday I was able to get a pre-release HTC Vive Pre in the office and spend some time with it. Not only was I interested in getting more hands-on time with the hardware without a time limit but we were also experimenting with how to stream and record VR demos and environments. 

Enjoy and mock!

Basemark Announces VRScore Virtual Reality Benchmark

Subject: General Tech | March 15, 2016 - 05:32 PM |
Tagged: VRScore, VR, virtual reality, gdc 2016, GDC, crytek, CRYENGINE, benchmark, Basemark

Basemark has announced VRScore, a new benchmarking tool for VR produced in partnership with Crytek. The benchmark uses Crytek’s CRYENGINE along with the Basemark framework, and can be run with or without a head-mounted display (HMD).

VRScore Screen 04.png

"With VRScore, consumers and companies are able to reliably test their PC for VR readiness with various head mounted displays (HMDs). Unlike existing tools developed by hardware vendors themselves, VRScore has been developed independently to be an essential source of unbiased information for anyone interested in VR."

An independent solution is certainly welcome as we enter what promises to be the year of VR, and Basemark is well known for providing objective benchmark results with applications such as Basemark X and OS II, cross-platform benchmarks for mobile devices. The VRScore benchmark supports the Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, and Razer's OSVR headsets, and the corporate versions include VRTrek, a left/right eye latency measurement device.

Here’s the list of features from Basemark:

  • Supports HTC Vive, Oculus Rift and OSVR
  • Uses CRYENGINE
  • Supports both DirectX 12 and DirectX 11 
  • Features Codename: Sky Harbor, an original IP game scene by Crytek
  • Includes tests for interactive VR (VR game), non-interactive VR (360 VR video) and VR spatial audio (360 sound) 
  • Can be used with or without an HMD
  • Power Board, an integrated online service, gives personalized PC upgrading advice and features performance ranking lists for HMDs, CPUs and GPUs
  • Corporate versions include VRTrek, a patent pending latency testing device with dual phototransistors for application to photon latency, display persistence, left and right eye latency, dropped frames and duplicated frames testing

VRScore-Trek.png

VRScore Trek eye latency measurement device, included with corporate version

VRScore is currently available only to corporate customers via the company’s early access program and Benchmark Development Program. The consumer versions (free and paid) will be released in June.

Source: Basemark

AMD Announces the Sulon Q: First Wireless VR Headset

Subject: General Tech | March 14, 2016 - 01:51 PM |
Tagged: wireless vr headset, vr headset, VR, virtual reality, Sulon Q, FX-8800P, amd fx, amd

AMD is powering the world's first truly self-contained VR solution, the Sulon Q, a wireless headset with a powerful computer built in.

side.jpg

AMD has partnered with Sulon Technologies, an startup based in Toronto, to produce this new headset, which seems to have the potential to disrupt the fledgling VR market. The idea is simple, and unique; unlike existing designs that require a VR-ready PC (Oculus Rift, HTC Vive) or the latest smartphone (GearVR) to work, the Sulon Q VR headset incorporates a full gaming PC inside the headset, allowing for the first actually wireless experience in this young technology's existence.

As Ars Technica notes in their post on the Sulon Q this morning:

"According to the announcement, that 'wear and play' untethered design makes the Sulon Q quite different from competition like the Oculus Rift or SteamVR-powered HTC Vive, which both need a relatively high-end PC to actually generate the images on the headset. With the Sulon Q, the Windows 10 PC hardware is built into the unit, including an expected four-core AMD FX-8800P processor with a Radeon R7 graphics card."

Who wouldn't want to wear an entire PC on their head? Thermal (and other health) concerns aside, just what sort of hardware is under the hood (so to speak)? According to the report published at VideoCardz this morning, it will offer a new AMD FX processor (the FX-8800P) and overall specs that look like they belong more to a gaming laptop than a VR headset.

SulonQ_2.jpg

(Quoting directly from the report on VideoCardz via this Reddit post):

Experiences: VR, AR, and spatial computing Ergonomics Lightweight, comfortable, ergonomically designed all-in-one tether-free form factor

Processors: AMD FX-8800P processor at up to 35W with Radeon R7 Graphics leveraging AMD’s Graphics Core Next architecture 4 compute cores and 8 GPU cores unlocked through Heterogeneous System Architecture (HSA) Sulon Spatial Processing Unit (SPU)

Memory: 8 GB DDR3 Memory

Storage: 256 GB SSD

Display: 2560×1440 OLED display at 90 Hz 110-degree Field-of-View

Audio: 3D spatial audio powered by GenAudio’s AstoundSound® technology Built-in 3.5 mm audio jack Custom spatially-optimized Sulon Q earbuds Dual noise-cancelling embedded microphones.

Tracking: Sulon Spatial Processing Unit combining real-time machine vision technologies and mixed reality spatial computer for real-time environment mapping and tracking from the inside outward, dynamic virtualization for VR/AR fusion, and gesture recognition

Sensors: Accelerometer, Gyroscope, Magnetometer, SPU

Software: Microsoft Windows® 10 “Project Dragon” application for spatial computing AMD LiquidVR technologies for ensure smooth and responsive VR and AR experiences

Peripherals: Wireless keyboard and mouse provided in box Any other Windows 10-compatible controllers and joysticks

Connectivity: WiFi 802.11ac + Bluetooth 4.1, 2x USB 3.0 Type A, Micro HDMI OUT

A video for the Sulon Q is also up on YouTube this morning:

The two biggest questions that always accompany any new hardware announcement - how much will it cost, and when is it available - have not been answered just yet. We'll await further information as GDC has just begun, but it seems very safe to say that 2016 will be focused very heavily on VR.

Source: VideoCardz

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

Mobile VR at high Noon

Subject: Displays | November 26, 2015 - 01:08 PM |
Tagged: noon, virtual reality

Similar in looks to Oculus Gear VR the Noon VR headset is compatible with more than just Samsung phones, any iOS or Android device between 4.7 inches to 5.7 should be supported.  At 230g naked, plus the weight of your phone the Noon felt a bit heavy to Hardware Canucks, a lot of that weight is balanced on your nose.  The 95 degree viewing angle is impressive and there is a focus dial on the headset for fine tuning but the latency and resolution are up to your phone, not the Noon.  As of yet there is little content for the Noon VR headset but the price is decent, currently it retails for $90 which makes it an interesting option for those who want to experiment with a VR device.

1.jpg

"With the big divide in computing power between desktops and smartphones, are we ready for mobile VR? The Noon VR headset is an attempt to answer that question."

Here are some more Display articles from around the web:

Displays

Two new SDKs aimed at VR performance join NVIDIA's GameWorks

Subject: General Tech | November 19, 2015 - 12:22 PM |
Tagged: gameworks vr, designworks vr, virtual reality, NVIDA, sdk

There is something about this phrase which describes a feature of NVIDIA's newly announced VR SLI that excites the kid in me "multiple GPUs can be assigned a specific eye to dramatically accelerate stereo rendering".  Maybe you can't afford two GPUs per eye but the fact that it would work if you could manage it is rather impressive.  NVIDIA has announced new SDKs specifically aimed at VR design and performance, GameWorks VR and DesignWorks VR.  Epic has announced that Unreal Engine 4.3 will support these new tools and you can grab them from NVIDIA's developer website right now if you so desire.  You can read more about specific features and optimizations these SDKs will provide at this article on The Inquirer.

nvidia-gamesworks-vr-540x334.jpeg

"The company said at the release of version 1.0 of GameWorks VR and DesignWorks VR that the SDKs will solve the power-guzzling problems associated with complex, immersive VR graphics processing."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

 

Source: The Inquirer

Virtual Reality as an Art Form? Artists Compete Using VR at PAX Prime

Subject: General Tech, Shows and Expos | September 15, 2015 - 01:07 PM |
Tagged: VR, virtual reality, Tilt Brush, PAX Prime 2015, paint, nvidia, art

A group of six artists from the gaming industry were brought together at this month's PAX Prime event in Seattle in a joint vebture between NVIDIA, Valve, Google and HTC. The idea? To use virtual reality to create art. The result was very interesting, to say the least.

Wearing HTC’s VR headset the artists had 30 minutes each to create their work using Tilt Brush. What is Tilt Brush, exactly?

"Tilt Brush uses the HTC Vive’s unique hand controllers and positional tracking to allow artists to paint in three dimensions. The software includes a remarkable digital palette, letting users draw GPU-powered real-time effects like fire, smoke and light."

The artists included Chandana Ekanayake from Uber Entertainment, Lee Petty from Double Fine Productions, Michael Shilliday from Whiterend Creative, Mike Krahulik from Penny Arcade, Sarah Northway from Northway Games and Tristan Reidford from Valve.

NVIDIA is hosting a contest to pick the winner on their Facebook page; so what's in it for you? "The artist with the most votes will win ultimate bragging rights, and voters will be entered to win a new GeForce GTX 980 Ti!" Not bad.

This is certainly a novel application of VR, but serves to illustrate (pun intended) that the tech really does provide endless possibilities - far beyond 3D art or gameplay immersion.

Source: NVIDIA Blogs

CES 2015: Razer OSVR Dev Kit, Forge TV Android Gaming Streamer, and Nabu X Fitness Band

Subject: General Tech | January 6, 2015 - 03:04 PM |
Tagged: OCVR, VR, virtual reality, razer, google tv, fitness band, ces 2015, CES, nabu x, Forge TV, Android 5.0, lollipop

Razer, maker of gaming peripherals and components, has some announcements today that are a big departure from their previous products.

osvr.jpg

First we have the announcement of an open VR standard, the Open-Source Virtual Reality (OSVR) ecosystem. Razer is contributing to this with the OSVR Hacker Dev Kit, "a virtual reality device and open-source software that enables programming for any variety of VR technology". The kit will be shipping in June for $199. There's a lot more information about this new VR platform on the Razer's OSVR page.

Next we have Forge TV, an Android gaming device for the living room that Razer says is "powered by a quad-core processor and gaming-grade graphics", which doesn't sound like your usual streamer.

forge_tv.jpg

Essentially a high-powered tablet in a box, the Razer Forge TV has impressive specs for an Android device:

  • OS: Android 5.0 Lollipop
  • SoC: Qualcomm Snapdragon 805 - Quad-Core Krait 450 CPU (2.5GHz per core), Adreno 420 GPU, 2GB RAM
  • Storage: 16GB
  • Connectivity: Wireless 802.11ac 2X2, Gigabit Ethernet, Bluetooth 4.1 + HS
  • Ports: HDMI 1.4, USB 3.0
  • Dimensions: 105mm X 105mm X 17mm

There is a product page up for the Forge TV on Razer's site, but no word on pricing or availability yet.

Finally we have Razer's entry into the popular fitness wearable market, the Nabu X.

RzrNabuX.jpg

This is compatible with Android and iOS devices and promises "5 to 7 days" battery life per charge. More info from Razer here.

Coverage of CES 2015 is brought to you by Logitech!

PC Perspective's CES 2015 coverage is sponsored by Logitech.

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

Source: Razer