Valve wants to lower GPU requirements for VR

Ben Parfitt
Valve wants to lower GPU requirements for VR

The virtual reality market might be opening up to a wider audience than first believed.

Both Steam's HTC Vive and the Oculus Rift have named the Nvidia GTX 970 or AMD 290 as the recommended cards for VR on PC. However, neither has yet specified their minimum requirements.

And with Sony's announcement of a 350 price for the PlayStation VR, the pressure is on both the 690 HTC Vive and 500 Oculus Rift to bring down the financial barriers to entry.

The easiest way to do this is to make VR compatible with lower spec PCs. Both the GTX 970 and R 290 are high-end cards, boosting up the VR entry price even higher for those without top-end PCs. The further the requirements are lowered, the more current PC owners may be able to delve into the market without an upgrade.

Upload reports that Valve's Alex Vlachos said at GDC that a Unity plugin is in development that will adjust rendering efficiency for weaker cards. So while VR titles played on, say, a GTX 680 might not boast the same detail and resolution as they would for a 970 user, they would still run at an acceptable enough framerate so as to make VR a worthwhile experience.

The current target for PC VR titles in 90Hz – that's 90 images being sent to each eye per second. This is seen as the best way of avoiding motion sickness. Vlachos, however, reckons that a card running at a consistent 45Hz will still be good enough.

There are other ways to potentially cut corners, too. As well as this adaptive technology that can scale games up and down accordingly, another technique called ‘fixed foveated rendering' priorities pixels in the center of the screen, reducing the processing for those on the outer edge that are less likely to be noticed.

Eye-tracking tech could enhance this option yet further, with the PC knowing where you're looking and focusing its efforts only on that part of the screen.

We've said the recommended spec is a 970, same as Oculus, but we do want lesser GPUs to work,” he added. We're trying to reduce the cost [of VR].

I can run [Portal VR demo] Aperture on a 680 without dropping frames at a lower quality, and, for me, that's enough of a proof of concept. Most art we're seeing in VR isn't as dense as that. So we should be pretty good to go…everything should be able to support that low-end hardware. But we need the right safety nets in place.”

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