AMD LiquidVR toolkit takes the vomit out of virtual reality

This is the year of VR, or maybe a few years from now

AMD, always the more graphics-minded of the two x86 powerhouses behind PCs, is gearing up to cash in on the virtual reality craze with a developer kit that should smooth out some of the problems with the nascent technology.

The LiquidVR SDK release by the chipmeisters is aimed at solving some of the basic problems with VR as it stands – latency issues, code load, and dealing with the fundamental problems that VR can make some people queasy if the tech isn't done right.

"There's a fundamental limit of 90 frames per second for VR images," Richard Huddy, AMD's chief gaming scientist, told The Register. "Get under that and it's going to cause some people problems, particularly with full immersion VR."

LiquidVR is the first AMD attempt to crack the VR market. It's building hardware hooks into its processors that VR systems can use, but the software is the key to solving problems in what looks like one of the most promising areas of virtual experiences.

The SDK has four key components: async shaders to allow the head to move naturally and not get jagged images; multi-GPU rendering for smoother graphics; direct links to Radeon graphics cards for faster graphics processing; and eye-following code for GPUs to allow hardware to be assigned for the best visual experience.

"Achieving presence in a virtual world continues to be one of the most important elements to delivering amazing VR," said Brendan Iribe, CEO of Oculus, which makes VR headsets.

"We're excited to have AMD working with us on their part of the latency equation, introducing support for new features like asynchronous time-warp and late latching, and compatibility improvements that ensure that Oculus' users have a great experience on AMD hardware."

While much of the buzz around this week's Games Developers Conference has been around virtual reality, AMD is taking a long-term view on the technology. 2015 probably isn’t the year that VR goes mainstream, Huddy acknowledged, but it's the year the first headsets come out, and in a year or so the technology should have matured enough to be useful. ®

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