NVIDIA Partners with SMI to Demo Foveated Rendering for VR at Siggraph 2016

Computer graphics giant NVIDIA has chosen SMI eye tracking by SensoMotoric Instruments to power its perceptually-based foveated rendering technique which will be showcased next week at Siggraph 2016 in Anaheim, California.

In an announcement ahead of the event, NVIDIA said it is partnering with SMI because of the benefits SMI’s 250 Hz eye tracking and super low latency bring to the project.

“The demonstration wouldn’t be possible without our partners at SMI, who have added their eye tracking to the HTV Vive we are using in this demo,” said NVIDIA Vice President of Research Dr David Luebke.

“The quality of the physical integration, and especially the quality of the eye tracking data that SMI delivers, has been key to the development of our perceptually-based foveated rendering techniques.”

Foveated rendering is the process of rendering at full resolution only the part of an image that the user is focusing on in the HMD, as tracked by eye tracking sensors.

SMI’s Director of OEM Solutions Business Christian Villwock congratulated NVIDIA, adding that the collaboration was made possible by the experience SMI has gained working with major HMD manufacturers since 2014. In that time SMI has produced development kits for its own foveated rendering technique which was praised within the VR media.

“We are in a position to partner with NVIDIA not just because we have mastered eye tracking for VR at 250 Hz but because of the industry-best and consumer-ready algorithms SMI has developed over more than two decades,” Mr Villwock said.

He added that NVIDIA’s foveated rendering project underscores the value eye tracking will play in the future success of virtual reality.

“We have long believed that eye tracking will be part of next-generation virtual reality headsets not just because of the benefits of foveated rendering, but because it enables personal display calibration, barrier-free natural interaction, social presence and yields valuable analytical insights”.

Before NVIDIA embarked on this project it used SMI’s eye-tracking HMDs to perform what it calls a “careful perceptual study” of what people see in their peripheral vision in VR.

Dr Luebke said: “Our researchers then used those insights to design a new rendering algorithm that enables much greater foveation, or reduction in rendering effort, without any discernible drop in visual quality.”

The NVIDIA Research team will demonstrate its foveated rendering at Siggraph while SMI will showcase eye tracking for VR at booth 472.