Foveated Rendering By Nvidia Might Be The Key To Better GPU Performance In VR
While there may not be a clear cut winner in the VR performance race right now when it comes to budget GPUs, Nvidia might soon take the lead through their “foveated rendering”. If not in this generation then at least next year or in next VR generation.
As the name suggests, foveated rendering has to do with the player’s field of view, what they are looking at through their VR headset. This technology trick puts less load on the GPU by focusing its efforts and rendering sharply only what the user is looking at while all the periphery remains blurry, similar to depth of field in games.
Basically, it simulates some of the functionalities of the human eye, doing less work where it isn’t needed. When a human looks through the corner of their eye, the area they are looking at isn’t clearly visible to them until they fully focus on it and foveated rendering will work just like that.
Of course to be able to implement this, the VR headset needs to know where the user is looking and neither Oculus Rift nor HTC Vive have that ability. While Oculus only tracks the head movement, Vive takes VR gaming to the next step by tracking the full body movement, however eye tracking is still not included.
There are some gadgets available in the market for precision eye tracking like Tobii EyeX and SteelSeries Sentry but they can’t be used with VR headsets since there is no way for them to focus on the user when the eyes are covered by the headset.
For this very purpose, Starbreeze is creating their own high-end StarVR headset that not only has VR functionalities but also includes Tobii’s sensor for eyeball tracking.
Once the VR headset knows where the user is looking, that’s where Nvidia’s foveated rendering comes in. At Siggraph 2016, it’s using SMI’s sensors to show off a new and improved foveation technique that can blur the periphery of an image while still maintaining the parts that humans perceive at the edges of their vision — color, contrast, edges and motion.