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Manufacturer: Various

Background and setup

A couple of weeks back, during the excitement surrounding the announcement of the GeForce GTX 1080 Ti graphics card, NVIDIA announced an update to its performance reporting project known as FCAT to support VR gaming. The updated iteration, FCAT VR as it is now called, gives us the first true ability to not only capture the performance of VR games and experiences, but the tools with which to measure and compare.

Watch ths video walk through of FCAT VR with me and NVIDIA's Tom Petersen

I already wrote an extensive preview of the tool and how it works during the announcement. I think it’s likely that many of you overlooked it with the noise from a new GPU, so I’m going to reproduce some of it here, with additions and updates. Everyone that attempts to understand the data we will be presenting in this story and all VR-based tests going forward should have a baseline understanding of the complexity of measuring VR games. Previous tools don’t tell the whole story, and even the part they do tell is often incomplete.

If you already know how FCAT VR works from reading the previous article, you can jump right to the beginning of our results here.

Measuring and validating those claims has proven to be a difficult task. Tools that we used in the era of standard PC gaming just don’t apply. Fraps is a well-known and well-understood tool for measuring frame rates and frame times utilized by countless reviewers and enthusiasts, but Fraps lacked the ability to tell the complete story of gaming performance and experience. NVIDIA introduced FCAT and we introduced Frame Rating back in 2013 to expand the capabilities that reviewers and consumers had access to. Using more sophisticated technique that includes direct capture of the graphics card output in uncompressed form, a software-based overlay applied to each frame being rendered, and post-process analyzation of that data, we could communicate the smoothness of a gaming experience, better articulating it to help gamers make purchasing decisions.

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For VR though, those same tools just don’t cut it. Fraps is a non-starter as it measures frame rendering from the GPU point of view and completely misses the interaction between the graphics system and the VR runtime environment (OpenVR for Steam/Vive and OVR for Oculus). Because the rendering pipeline is drastically changed in the current VR integrations, what Fraps measures is completely different than the experience the user actually gets in the headset. Previous FCAT and Frame Rating methods were still viable but the tools and capture technology needed to be updated. The hardware capture products we used since 2013 were limited in their maximum bandwidth and the overlay software did not have the ability to “latch in” to VR-based games. Not only that but measuring frame drops, time warps, space warps and reprojections would be a significant hurdle without further development. 

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NVIDIA decided to undertake the task of rebuilding FCAT to work with VR. And while obviously the company is hoping that it will prove its claims of performance benefits for VR gaming, it should not be overlooked the investment in time and money spent on a project that is to be open sourced and free available to the media and the public.

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NVIDIA FCAT VR is comprised of two different applications. The FCAT VR Capture tool runs on the PC being evaluated and has a similar appearance to other performance and timing capture utilities. It uses data from Oculus Event Tracing as a part of the Windows ETW and SteamVR’s performance API, along with NVIDIA driver stats when used on NVIDIA hardware to generate performance data. It will and does work perfectly well on any GPU vendor’s hardware though with the access to the VR vendor specific timing results.

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Continue reading our first look at VR performance testing with FCAT VR!!

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Manufacturer: NVIDIA

VR Performance Evaluation

Even though virtual reality hasn’t taken off with the momentum that many in the industry had expected on the heels of the HTC Vive and Oculus Rift launches last year, it remains one of the fastest growing aspects of PC hardware. More importantly for many, VR is also one of the key inflection points for performance moving forward; it requires more hardware, scalability, and innovation than any other sub-category including 4K gaming.  As such, NVIDIA, AMD, and even Intel continue to push the performance benefits of their own hardware and technology.

Measuring and validating those claims has proven to be a difficult task. Tools that we used in the era of standard PC gaming just don’t apply. Fraps is a well-known and well-understood tool for measuring frame rates and frame times utilized by countless reviewers and enthusiasts. But Fraps lacked the ability to tell the complete story of gaming performance and experience. NVIDIA introduced FCAT and we introduced Frame Rating back in 2013 to expand the capabilities that reviewers and consumers had access to. Using more sophisticated technique that includes direct capture of the graphics card output in uncompressed form, a software-based overlay applied to each frame being rendered, and post-process analyzation of that data, we were able to communicate the smoothness of a gaming experience, better articulating it to help gamers make purchasing decisions.

pipe1.jpg

VR pipeline when everything is working well.

For VR though, those same tools just don’t cut it. Fraps is a non-starter as it measures frame rendering from the GPU point of view and completely misses the interaction between the graphics system and the VR runtime environment (OpenVR for Steam/Vive and OVR for Oculus). Because the rendering pipeline is drastically changed in the current VR integrations, what Fraps measures is completely different than the experience the user actually gets in the headset. Previous FCAT and Frame Rating methods were still viable but the tools and capture technology needed to be updated. The hardware capture products we used since 2013 were limited in their maximum bandwidth and the overlay software did not have the ability to “latch in” to VR-based games. Not only that but measuring frame drops, time warps, space warps and reprojections would be a significant hurdle without further development.  

pipe2.jpg

VR pipeline with a frame miss.

NVIDIA decided to undertake the task of rebuilding FCAT to work with VR. And while obviously the company is hoping that it will prove its claims of performance benefits for VR gaming, it should not be overlooked the investment in time and money spent on a project that is to be open sourced and free available to the media and the public.

vlcsnap-2017-02-27-11h31m17s057.png

NVIDIA FCAT VR is comprised of two different applications. The FCAT VR Capture tool runs on the PC being evaluated and has a similar appearance to other performance and timing capture utilities. It uses data from Oculus Event Tracing as a part of the Windows ETW and SteamVR’s performance API, along with NVIDIA driver stats when used on NVIDIA hardware to generate performance data. It will and does work perfectly well on any GPU vendor’s hardware though with the access to the VR vendor specific timing results.

fcatvrcapture.jpg

Continue reading our preview of the new FCAT VR tool!

UploadVR Tries Wireless Vive Accessory by TPCAST

Subject: General Tech | December 22, 2016 - 10:33 PM |
Tagged: VR, vive, pc gaming, htc

A little over a month ago, we reported on HTC’s announcement of the wireless upgrade kit for their Vive. It was created by TPCAST, which was a participant in HTC’s VR startup accelerator. The actual upgrade kits won’t ship until early 2017, but UploadVR was given some time with the wireless accessory. The video was shot in the UploadVR office, which makes this the first public usage outside of a controlled event as far as I am aware, but TPCAST was present.

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Image Credit: UploadVR

It apparently works. The previewer didn’t have any real complaints about its performance versus wired, and they were satisfied with its tracking, despite doing flips and other maneuvers to try to break communication with the wireless bases. This is promising, as the 60 GHz signal, used by the wireless adapter, can be picky about anything except direct line-of-sight. That said, the video base station is designed to be placed on the ceiling, with a 160-degree FOV, so it shouldn’t be too obstructed in almost any scenario.

According to UploadVR, TPCAST claims that it adds less than 2ms of delay.

While we are on this topic, there have been rumors that HTC might announce (probably just announce) a replacement to the original VIVE unit. One possibility is that it is basically the same system, just with the wireless functionality built in, making this upgrade kit sufficient for first-generation adopters. That would probably be the only scenario, at least that I can think of, which doesn’t involve a bunch of angry 2016 buyers, though.

We’ll see when CES rolls around.

Source: UploadVR

Learn about the tech in Vive's Lighthouse

Subject: General Tech | December 22, 2016 - 12:58 PM |
Tagged: vive, valve, Lighthouse, alan yates

Curious about the tech behind Valve's Lighthouse room-scale VR positioning system for the HTC Vive?  Learn about it from Alan Yates, one of the leads on the project at Valve over at Hack a Day in a 40 minute video.  He discusses the various attempts at finding a way to make the positioning system work, from failed bearings to the eventual discovery of the optimal thickness for the mirror. If you can't wait for the second generation of Lighthouse, he also provides you with a way to get your hands on an ASIC on a breakout board which will help you build your own version.

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"[Alan Yates] is a hacker’s engineer. His job at Valve has been to help them figure out the hardware that makes virtual reality (VR) a real reality. And he invented a device that’s clever enough that it really should work, but difficult enough that it wasn’t straightforward how to make it work."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: Hack a Day

A VR capable machine for less than the headset?

Subject: Systems | November 9, 2016 - 03:31 PM |
Tagged: VR, vive, rift, Oculus, htc, build guide, amd

Neoseeker embarked on an interesting project recently; building a VR capable system which costs less than the VR headset it will power.  We performed a similar feat this summer, a rig which at the time cost roughly $900.  Neoseeker took a different path, using AMD parts to keep the cost low while still providing the horsepower required to drive a Rift or Vive.  They tested their rig on The Lab, Star Wars: Trials on Tatooine and Waltz of the Wizard, finding the performance smooth and most importantly not creating the need for any dimenhydrinate.  There are going to be some games this system struggles with but at total cost under $700 this is a great way to experience VR even if you are on a budget.

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"Team Red designed this system around their very capable Radeon RX 480 8GB video card and the popular FX-6350 Vishera 6-Core CPU. The RX 480 is obviously the main component that will not only be leading the dance, but also help drive the total build cost down thanks to its MSRP of $239. At the currently listed online prices, the components for system will cost around $660 USD in total after applicable rebates."

Here are some more Systems articles from around the web:

Systems

Source: Neoseeker

Europeans: Epic Games Is Hosting a VR Game Jam

Subject: General Tech | September 6, 2016 - 05:58 PM |
Tagged: nvidia, epic games, valve, htc, vr funhouse, vive

So Epic Games, NVIDIA, and HTC (with Valve) are hosting a game jam aboard the MS Bleichen ship in Hamburg, Germany. The purpose is to develop mods for VR Funhouse. Nothing says a fun VR experience like room-scale experiences on a boat. Hopefully it will be firmly docked to prevent judges from getting sea-sick... or not. Maybe that will make the carnival games even better?

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The jam takes place between September 24th and September 26th. Epic, NVIDIA, and Valve will be donating prizes to the event. Tickets cost 16.67 Euros, although I'm guessing that doesn't include food or a place to sleep -- they don't say one way or the other. The general public can also buy tickets for the last day, to experience the creations.

Source: EventBrite

HTC Vive Currently Dominating Oculus Sales

Subject: General Tech | July 2, 2016 - 09:21 PM |
Tagged: valve, htc, steam, steamvr, vive, Oculus, oculus rift

Thanks to Keith of WCCFTech for tweeting this out.

According to the Steam Hardware Survey, the HTC Vive is dominating the Oculus Rift by more than a factor of two (0.15% to 0.06%). More-so, its rate of change is also double that of Oculus (0.06% to 0.03%). If these numbers are accurate, this means that the SteamVR is massively overtaking Oculus SDK in terms of both amount and rate of change.

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Now the questions are “why?” and “what does that mean?”

The most obvious reason, to me, is that HTC has much better availability than Oculus. For the last month, they announced that the Vive ships within two-to-three business days. If you look at Oculus? The website tells you to expect it in August. It is currently the second day of July. While a month is not too long of a time to wait, it would make sense that a consumer would look at the two options and say “Yeah, the this week one, please.”

If that's the case, then the platform battle could be decided simply by retail availability. It wouldn't be decided by a Valve-developed first-party game. It wouldn't be decided by DRM locking games into an exclusive deal. It would simply be decided by “you can buy this one”. That is, unless Oculus ramps up production soon. At that point, we'll need to look back at hardware surveys (not just Steam's) and see what the split is. They could catch up. They could be left behind. Who knows? It could be another factor altogether.

For now, the Vive seems like it's the crowd favorite.

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!!

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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!!