AMD Lays Out VR Vision in IFA Keynote

Mark Papermaster, CTO at AMD and Roy Taylor, Corporate VP for Alliances and Content shared a keynote speaking spot at IFA where they laid out their view of the status and future of VR. Last year, there were 2-3 VR companies at IFA but this year: 35. Forrester has forecast 32M headsets will be sold in2020 and Gartner thinks it is a $21B market around this time as well.

Papermaster says that change is indeed happening faster now and is moving at an exponential rate. VR has been around for awhile, but it will now change everything as we are at a convergence point that will allow it to take off. He cited advancements in smartphones, CPU and GPU power, voice, gesture and interactive technologies. What has been missing are affordable headsets, but that will change this year with arrival of the PlayStation VR, Oculus Rift and Vive headsets.

We are just at the beginning of the VR phase, which he likes to call true immersion. True immersion in Papermaster’s mind means 64X FHD resolution and 90 frames per second. To get there, AMD started an investment in this area four years ago. Just recently at Siggraph, it unveiled its latest Radeon Pro card and Zen CPU chip. The Zen chip offers 40% more processing capabilities at the same power level as previous chips.


Papermaster says AMD is a big believer in open standards and he thinks this drives markets, which is in stark contrast to his competitor (Nvida). Open standards drive application development which means content. Technology is needed for new markets, but without content, they don’t grow very fast. AMD wants to help ignite this VR market and he thinks open standards will enable many more developers than proprietary solutions.

One way AMD is helping is the release of a real time stitching algorithm to the open market that will even play on competitors’ GPUs. It is called Project Loom.

Roy Taylor then took over to describe some of the activities AMD has underway in the whole VR ecosystem, spanning entertainment to medical and architecture. He noted that just this last April, the first VR medical procedure was performed.

VRE, or VR Entertainment is a very hot topic in Hollywood. Already 180 VRE pieces of content have been completed as short vignettes mainly to help market products or develop story telling techniques. Clearly, game engines are a elementary part of developing the VR experience and all the game engine companies are very active in this field.


But Taylor sees one opportunity that he thinks will become a big opportunity – and one they want to help ignite – location-based VR. This means setting up “arcades” or “game parlors” where people can put on a VR headset for a fee. These are also likely to be multiple player interactive as well, so you can meet and play with your friends in a VR game or adventure. (See Acer Jumps onto Gaze for Monitors & PCs for news of what iMax is doing with Acer in this area).

VR files can be huge today and their sizes will go nowhere but up as we add light field images, more resolution and higher frame rates to drive towards an immersive experience that is indistinguishable from reality. One innovation AMD has made here is to develop a solution that drives data from the solid state memory directly to the GPU, bypassing the bottleneck placed in the tradition path via the PCI express bus. Normally, playback of an 8K file can only be done at about 17 frames per second, but with the new approach, the frame rate was increased to 90 frames. (We’ll have more on this in our IBC report).

AMD is doing its part by offering VR-capable GPU cads with prices that have been lowered from $350 to $200. They are looking for partners to drive the LBE VR opportunity as well, and they are active throughout the ecosystem.

As Taylor and Papermaster stated – they see VR as the “Next Billion People Market Opportunity” so they have to do their part to commoditize the technology, lower barriers for content creation and expose more and more people to VR. (CC)