Valve Wants VR Headsets to Support GPUs as Old as 2012 GTX 680
We know that the recommended specs to run Oculus Rift and HTC Vive headsets require to have at least an AMD Radeon R9 290 or Nvidia GTX 970 GPU. Which means, getting a PC capable enough to run VR will be one of the biggest challenges with the new immersive technology. That is why Valve is working on lowering the entry barrier by enabling graphics cards from as far back as 2012 to work in Valve’s VR ecosystem.
“As long as the GPU can hit 45 HZ we want for people to be able to run VR,” Valve’s Alex Vlachos told UploadVR during his talk at GDC 2016. “We’ve said the recommended spec is a 970, same as Oculus, but we do want lesser GPUs to work. We’re trying to reduce the cost [of VR].”
As for why the graphics cards in a Rift- or Vive-ready PC have such high requirements is because of the fact that they need to run at 90 FPS / 90 Hz, to create a smooth and effective immersive experience.
With Valve talking about targeting a 45 FPS implies that the company plans on integrating some kind of frame doubling or frame interpolation to get back to the 90 FPS mark that it believes is necessary to avoid motion sickness and poor VR experiences in general.
In this regard, Vlachos mentioned a series of strategies grouped together as “adaptive quality” that would essentially lower the image quality dynamically based on hardware performance.
He specifically talked about an upcoming plugin for the Unity Engine called “fixed foveated rendering” which is designed to prioritize the pixels in the center of an image, with the surrounding image running at lower quality since it is less likely to be noticed.
“I can run Aperture [a graphically rich Valve-built VR experience] on a 680 without dropping frames at a lower quality, and, for me, that’s enough of a proof of concept,” Vlachos said.