Creatively testing GPUs with Google's Tilt Brush

Subject: Graphics Cards | August 23, 2016 - 01:43 PM |
Tagged: amd, nvidia, Tilt Brush, VR

[H]ard|OCP continues their foray into testing VR applications, this time moving away from games to try out the rather impressive Tilt Brush VR drawing application from Google.  If you have yet to see this software in action it is rather incredible, although you do still require an artist's talent and practical skills to create true 3D masterpieces. 

Artisic merit may not be [H]'s strong suite but testing how well a GPU can power VR applications certainly lies within their bailiwick.  Once again they tested five NVIDIA GPUs and a pair of AMD's for dropped frames and reprojection caused by a drop in FPS.

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"We are changing gears a bit with our VR Performance coverage and looking at an application that is not as GPU-intensive as those we have looked at in the recent past. Google's Tilt Brush is a virtual reality application that makes use of the HTC Vive head mounted display and its motion controllers to allow you to paint in 3D space."

Here are some more Graphics Card articles from around the web:

Graphics Cards

Source: [H]ard|OCP

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.

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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.

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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.  

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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.

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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.

Playing with VR, Call of the Starseed edition

Subject: General Tech | August 10, 2016 - 02:13 PM |
Tagged: gaming, starseed, VR, amd, nvidia, htc vive

When [H]ard|OCP looks at the performance of a VR game, be it a Vive or Rift title, they focus on the gameplay experience as opposed to benchmarks.  There are numerous reasons for this, from the fact that these games do not tend to stress GPUs like many triple A titles but also because the targets are different, steady render times below 11.1ms are the target as opposed to higher frame counts.  AMD initially had issues with this game, the newest driver release has resolved those issues completely.  The takeaway quote in [H]'s conclusions provide the most telling part of the review, "If we were to perform a blind gaming test, you would not be able to identify which GPU you were gaming with at the time."

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"We are back this week to take another objective look at AMD and NVIDIA GPU performance in one of the the top selling games in the VR-only realm, The Gallery Episode 1: Call of Starseed. This is another GPU-intensive title that has the ability to put some GPUs on their heels. How do the new RX 480 and GeForce 1000 series perform?"

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Gaming

Source: [H]ard|OCP

Podcast #410 - Data Recovery, New Titan X Launch, AMD builds a GPU with SSDs and more!!

Subject: Editorial | July 28, 2016 - 01:03 PM |
Tagged: XSPC, wings, windows 10, VR, video, titan x, tegra, Silverstone, sapphire, rx 480, Raystorm, RapidSpar, radeon pro ssg, quadro, px1, podcast, p6000, p5000, nvidia, nintendo nx, MX300, gp102, evga, dg-87, crucial, angelbird

PC Perspective Podcast #410 - 07/28/2016

Join us this week as we discuss the new Pascal based Titan X, an AMD graphics card with 1TB of SSD storage on-board, data recovery with RapidSpar and more!!

You can subscribe to us through iTunes and you can still access it directly through the RSS page HERE.

The URL for the podcast is: http://pcper.com/podcast - Share with your friends!

Hosts:  Ryan Shrout, Allyn Malventano, Sebastian Peak, and Josh Walrath

Program length: 1:46:33
  1. Week in Review:
  2. News items of interest:
  3. 1:29:15 Hardware/Software Picks of the Week
    1. Allyn: Wii emulation is absolutely usable now (Dolphin 5)
  4. Closing/outro

Google may be abandoning their VR headset, but not VR entirely

Subject: General Tech | July 18, 2016 - 01:37 PM |
Tagged: google, VR, daydream, rumour, Huawei

Detailed information on Google's Daydream VR Headeset was conspicuously absent from io16.  At that time it was still expected that Google was developing a VR headset to compete with the Rift and Vive which is why it seemed strange they merely mentioned it in passing.  Today rumours are spreading that Google may have abandoned that particular project on favour of improving mobile VR, taking advantage of Google Cardboard one might assume.  They are instead focusing on the software side, the Daydream VR platform designed to enhance VR capabilities on Android N will be improved and offered to vendors; Huawei was mentioned in the post on The Inquirer.  While it is still rumour at this point it certainly makes sense to stop spending money to develop competing hardware when they can focus on improving mobile software which any Android phone could use.

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"While Daydream persists, Recode said that Google has cancelled plans to create its own VR headset as it does not want to compete with Facebook, Samsung, HTC and others."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: The Register

NVIDIA Releases 368.69 WHQL Drivers for Dirt Rally VR

Subject: Graphics Cards | July 6, 2016 - 05:10 PM |
Tagged: VR, Oculus, nvidia, graphics drivers, DiRT Rally

A Game Ready Driver has just launched for DiRT Rally VR. GeForce Drivers 368.69 WHQL increments upon the last release, obviously adding optimizations for DiRT Rally VR, but it also includes a few new SLI profiles (Armored Warfare, Dangerous Golf, iRacing: Motorsport Simulator, Lost Ark, and Tiger Knight) and probably other bug fixes.

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The update doesn't yet have a release date, but it should be soon. According to NVIDIA's blog post, it sounds like it will come first to the Oculus Store, but arrive on Steam later this month. I haven't been following the game too heavily, but there doesn't seem to be any announcement about official HTC Vive support that I can find.

You can pick them up at NVIDIA's website or through GeForce Experience. Thankfully, the GeForce Experience 3 Beta seems to pick up on new drivers much quicker than the previous version.

Source: NVIDIA

The Vives are coming

Subject: General Tech | June 7, 2016 - 02:18 PM |
Tagged: htc, vive, VR

As of today if you order an HTC Vive VR Headset you should receive it mere days after you place your order, no longer is it a preorder process where you would need to wait an indeterminate amount of time.  The package will cost you  $799US or $1,149CAN so it is not quite an impulse buy but it certainly is very tempting.  You can order online or drop by a Microsoft Store, Gamestop or Micro Center if such things exist in your neighbourhood.  Al took a look at some of the technology in the Vive in this article, which is interesting to look at even if you can't quite afford one yet.

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"HTC ViveTM can now be purchased through www.vive.com in 24 countries, shipping within 2-3 business days of purchase. In addition to online availability from HTC, individuals can now buy the revolutionary Vive virtual reality system in select Microsoft Stores, GameStop and Micro Center locations. Pre-orders placed through these retailers will be fulfilled beginning this week."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: HTC

Podcast #394 - Measuring VR Performance, NVIDIA's Pascal GP100, Bristol Ridge APUs and more!

Subject: General Tech | April 7, 2016 - 02:47 PM |
Tagged: VR, vive, video, tesla p100, steamvr, Spectre 13.3, rift, podcast, perfmon, pascal, Oculus, nvidia, htc, hp, GP100, Bristol Ridge, APU, amd

PC Perspective Podcast #394 - 04/07/2016

Join us this week as we discuss measuring VR Performance, NVIDIA's Pascal GP100, Bristol Ridge APUs and more!

You can subscribe to us through iTunes and you can still access it directly through the RSS page HERE.

The URL for the podcast is: http://pcper.com/podcast - Share with your friends!

This episode of the PC Perspective Podcast is sponsored by Lenovo!

Hosts: Ryan Shrout, Jeremy Hellstrom, Josh Walrath and Allyn Malventano

Subscribe to the PC Perspective YouTube Channel for more videos, reviews and podcasts!!

Subject: General Tech
Manufacturer: HTC

Introduction and Background

Introduction

VR is rapidly gaining steam lately with the recent launch of several capable platforms. I’ve briefly sampled the various iterations of development kits and pre-release units coming through our office, and understanding how they tracked the headset position was relatively easy. Then we got to play with an HTC Vive, and things got a bit more interesting. The Vive is a ‘whole room’ VR experience. You’re not sitting at a desk with a game controller. Instead, you are holding a pair of controllers that behave more like extensions of yourself (once you get used to them, that is). Making all of this work took some extra pieces included with the kit, and the electronics technician in me was dying to know just what made this thing tick. I’d imagine other readers of this site might feel the same, so I thought it appropriate to do some digging and report my findings here.

Before diving straight into the HTC Vive, a brief history lesson of game system positional tracking is in order.

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I'll start with the Wii Remote controllers, which had a front mounted IR camera that ‘saw’ a pair of IR LED banks mounted in the ‘Sensor Bar’ – an ironic naming as the ‘sensor’ was actually in the Remotes. This setup lets you point a Wii Remote at the television and use it as a mouse. Due to the limited number of points in use, the system could not tell the Wii Remote location within the room. Instead, it could only get a vector relative to the Sensor Bar itself. Wii Remotes also contained accelerometers, but those were typically not used to assist in the accuracy of the pointing (but were used to determine if the remote was inverted, as the Sensor Bar had only two light sources).

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The Oculus Rift was essentially a reversing of the technology used in the old Nintendo Wii Remotes. The headset position and orientation are determined by a desk-mounted IR camera which ‘looks’ at IR LEDs mounted to the headset. The system dubbed ‘Constellation’, can decode the pattern (seen faintly in the above photo) and determine the headset position and orientation in space.

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Even the sides and rear of the headset have a specific LED pattern to help the camera lock on to someone looking away from it. If the IR camera sees the triangular pattern on the headset strap, it can conclude that the viewer us looking behind them.

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The HTC Vive takes a different approach here. Since it was launching with a headset and two controllers that would all need to be tracked in space simultaneously. The Wii Remote style idea would only work with a much larger grid of sensor bars (or QR codes) peppered all over the room, so that idea was out. The Rift’s constellation system might have a hard time identifying unique light patterns on multiple devices that could be far away and possibly occluding each other. So if having cameras on the headset and controllers is out, and having a camera on the desk is out, what’s left?

Read on for our in-depth look at the HTC Vive Lighthouse Tracking System

Author:
Manufacturer: HTC

Why things are different in VR performance testing

It has been an interesting past several weeks and I find myself in an interesting spot. Clearly, and without a shred of doubt, virtual reality, more than any other gaming platform that has come before it, needs an accurate measure of performance and experience. With traditional PC gaming, if you dropped a couple of frames, or saw a slightly out of sync animation, you might notice and get annoyed. But in VR, with a head-mounted display just inches from your face taking up your entire field of view, a hitch in frame or a stutter in motion can completely ruin the immersive experience that the game developer is aiming to provide. Even worse, it could cause dizziness, nausea and define your VR experience negatively, likely killing the excitement of the platform.

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My conundrum, and the one that I think most of our industry rests in, is that we don’t yet have the tools and ability to properly quantify the performance of VR. In a market and a platform that so desperately needs to get this RIGHT, we are at a point where we are just trying to get it AT ALL. I have read and seen some other glances at performance of VR headsets like the Oculus Rift and the HTC Vive released today, but honest all are missing the mark at some level. Using tools built for traditional PC gaming environments just doesn’t work, and experiential reviews talk about what the gamer can expect to “feel” but lack the data and analysis to back it up and to help point the industry in the right direction to improve in the long run.

With final hardware from both Oculus and HTC / Valve in my hands for the last three weeks, I have, with the help of Ken and Allyn, been diving into the important question of HOW do we properly test VR? I will be upfront: we don’t have a final answer yet. But we have a direction. And we have some interesting results to show you that should prove we are on the right track. But we’ll need help from the likes of Valve, Oculus, AMD, NVIDIA, Intel and Microsoft to get it right. Based on a lot of discussion I’ve had in just the last 2-3 days, I think we are moving in the correct direction.

Why things are different in VR performance testing

So why don’t our existing tools work for testing performance in VR? Things like Fraps, Frame Rating and FCAT have revolutionized performance evaluation for PCs – so why not VR? The short answer is that the gaming pipeline changes in VR with the introduction of two new SDKs: Oculus and OpenVR.

Though both have differences, the key is that they are intercepting the draw ability from the GPU to the screen. When you attach an Oculus Rift or an HTC Vive to your PC it does not show up as a display in your system; this is a change from the first developer kits from Oculus years ago. Now they are driven by what’s known as “direct mode.” This mode offers improved user experiences and the ability for the Oculus an OpenVR systems to help with quite a bit of functionality for game developers. It also means there are actions being taken on the rendered frames after we can last monitor them. At least for today.

Continue reading our experience in benchmarking VR games!!