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AMD takes Wireless VR to the next level: unveils AMD’s first high-quality, device independent wireless PC-to-VR streaming

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With AMD announcing the release of its new AMD Radeon™ Software Adrenalin 2019 driver featuring AMD Radeon™ ReLive with wireless VR support1, I’d like to share with you some details on how this technology evolved. Initially, this was a research initiative by the Immersive Technology Team at AMD to attempt to solve a common problem. As many have experienced, our engineers were always getting entangled by the wire connecting a VR headset to the PC. It was obvious that the VR experience would be better without the wires.

Up until now, there were two primary methods to enable wireless VR. The first involved dedicated hardware dongles. Adding extra hardware to existing HMD (head mounted displays) almost made them wireless, but such solutions still required lots of wires in a complex and cumbersome setup. Additionally, the area in which to track the HMD was very limited.

Another approach was to stream game frames directly to a stand-alone VR headset. Several offerings of this sort have existed in the market, but for a host of technical reasons, some of these solutions resulted in increased latency, jittering and black borders, resulting in a bad experience.

Now, after several years of trials and testing, AMD is rolling out its new wireless VR game streaming2 technology as part of its AMD Radeon ReLive technology available in the AMD Radeon™ Software Adrenalin 2019 Edition.

AMD Radeon™ ReLive, combined with the updated AMD Link mobile application and dedicated VR store applications, now enables streaming of PC-based VR games to standalone VR headsets such as HTC Vive Focus and Google Daydream via a home Wi-Fi network. The new software provides low-latency, PC-quality experiences on standalone VR headsets, delivering advanced graphics and brilliant colors.

This technology is both revolutionary and evolutionary. It brings together the rendering power of AMD Radeon GPUs and the freedom of movement of a mobile headset – a combination that neither technology alone could offer. With one company providing the combination of AMD Radeon GPUs with AMD Radeon Software drivers, developers have direct access to hardware and data assets, for a solution that is naturally more efficient and offers lower latency.

Developers can now deliver PC-based VR content to Android-based headsets, mobile phones and tablets, without the need to change even a single line of code in the games themselves3. Gamers benefit because they already have access to VR game titles via Steam, along with their PC, to play them on a mobile platform. And it all runs on standard, off-the-shelf hardware – all you need is a PC with a compatible AMD Radeon GPU1 running SteamVR, a compatible standalone VR headset and a wireless AC (5GHz) router.

Several factors had to come together for this technology to become a reality. We had to solve some engineering challenges to make network latency unnoticeable to the user. We needed a standalone headset with an open API we could use. And, we needed to convince a number of people, including ourselves, that it would work. It is all finally coming together in 2018.

Wireless VR is not entirely without flaws. Network congestion can sometimes be a factor, causing occasional frame delay or loss, and not all stand-alone headsets support six degrees of freedom (DoF) motion controls. Still, the ecosystem of stand-alone VR solutions is getting better. Multiple vendors have announced dual 6DoF controllers for their stand-alone headsets, and several offerings are expected to hit the market in early 2019. Once available, these controllers will offer a much richer gaming experience that is comparable to what users of dedicated PC VR headsets experience. Thus, we anticipate an expanded set of SteamVR titles to be fully playable via our wireless solution.

After years of lab design and testing, we are excited to see AMD Radeon ReLive technology with Wireless VR functionality enabled to provide gamers with immersive new features that deliver unparalleled visual experiences.

Additional information can be found at the Radeon Software, Wireless VR technology, and Radeon Software download sites.

Carlos Silva is a senior director of software development for AMD. His postings are his own opinions and may not represent AMD’s positions, strategies or opinions. Links to third party sites are provided for convenience and unless explicitly stated, AMD is not responsible for the contents of such linked sites and no endorsement is implied.

1. PC game compatibility depends on headset capability. Please see Requires HTC Vive Focus or phone and headset which supports Google Daydream (Android 7.0).  For VR connectivity, an 802.11ac router or access point is required. Compatible with AMD Radeon™ RX 470, RX 570, RX 480, RX 580, RX 590 & RX Vega series products, Supports Windows® 10. GD-135

2. Streaming is enabled through Steam®, the Steam® VR Ecosystem, and the Radeon™ ReLive Wireless VR app. GD-136

3. Developers can deliver PC-based VR content to Android HMDs without having to change any code provided there is compatible controller setups to the game requirements.