Today Nvidia has officially released the 1.0 version of two powerful VR software development kits (SDKs) – the Nvidia GameWorks VR and Nvidia DesignWorks VR that are targeted at headset, game, and application VR developers in order for this relatively new category of display devices to offer better performance and user experience. Delivering good VR games and experiences is a complex challenge, especially since immersive VR can require multiple times the graphics processing power compared to traditional 3D apps and games you not only need a good GPU in terms of performance, but also one that is optimized for VR. With these SDKs developers on Nvidia hardware should now have the tools to create amazing VR experiences, increase performance, reduce latency, improve hardware compatibility and accelerate 360-degree video broadcasts. Both SDKs deliver a comprehensive set of APIs and libraries for headset and app developers, including the new Multi-Res Shading Technology. Available publicly for the first time, Multi-Res Shading is an innovative rendering technique that increases performance by as much as 50 percent while maintaining image quality. Also the 1.0 SDK releases also add support for the new Windows 10 operating system.
For game and application developers, the GameWorks VR SDK includes:
– Multi-Res Shading — an innovative rendering technique for VR in which each part of an image is rendered at a resolution that best matches the pixel density of the warped image required by the headset. It uses the NVIDIA Maxwell chip architecture’s multi-projection capability to render multiple-scaled viewports in a single pass, delivering substantial performance improvements.
– VR SLI — provides increased performance for VR applications where multiple GPUs can be assigned a specific eye to dramatically accelerate stereo rendering.
– Context Priority — provides control over GPU scheduling to support advanced VR features such as asynchronous time warp, which cuts latency and quickly adjusts images as gamers move their heads, without the need to re-render a new frame.
– Direct Mode — treats VR headsets as head-mounted displays accessible only to VR applications, rather than a typical Windows monitor, providing better plug and play support and compatibility for VR headsets.
– Front Buffer Rendering — enables the GPU to render directly to the front buffer to reduce latency.
For developers of professional VR applications in markets such as manufacturing, media and entertainment, oil and gas, and medical imaging, NVIDIA DesignWorks VR builds on the core GameWorks VR SDK with the addition of powerful tools, such as:
– Warp and Blend — new APIs that provide application-independent geometry corrections and intensity adjustments across entire desktops to create seamless VR CAVE environments, without introducing any latency.
– Synchronization — techniques to prevent tearing and image misalignment while creating one large desktop that is driven from multiple GPUs or clusters. Various technologies like Frame Lock, Stereo Lock, Swap Groups and Swap Barriers are available to help developers design seamless and expansive VR CAVE and cluster environments.
– GPU Affinity — provides dramatic performance improvements by managing the placement of graphics and rendering workloads across multiple GPUs.
– Direct for Video — enabling VR and augmented reality environments such as head-mounted displays, CAVES/immersive displays and cluster solutions.
AMD has also been more active on VR support lately with the recent announcement of their AMD LiquidVR Technology for Developers. One of the key technology goals of LiquidVR is to reduce unwanted processing latency (reduce motion-to-photon latency) and deliver a consistent frame rate. AMD recently released the Alpha version of its LiquidVR SDK to select technology partners. The LiquidVR SDK is a platform designed to simplify and optimize VR development.
The four major features of LiquidVR SDK include:
– Asynchronous Shaders: more efficient GPU resource management.
– Affinity Multi-GPU: faster multi-GPU performance.
– Latest Data Latch: reduced motion-to-photon latency.
– Direct-To-Display: seamless plug and play experience.
Now the big question that remains is how soon users are going to have their hands on the new VR headset hardware such as the consumer version of the Oculus Rift that should be released sometime in the Q1 2016 or the alternatives such as HTC VIVE and others that might be coming with their own hardware. The developer hardware that has been available with most notable wider availability of the two generations of dev kits of the Oculus Rift has sparked the interest and demand for VR headset in many users that simply cannot wait to get their hands on the hardware and experience the promised great VR experiences as well as play great games in a new more realistic way.
The 3D DLP projectors are one of the most affordable solutions to get a large screen with 3D support, whether it is for watching 3D movies at home or for playing games in stereo 3D with a better sense of immersion. There are a lots of models available on the market using various interfaces and having different resolutions and capabilities and all of these may cause a confusion and as a result you may end up with a 3D-capable projectors that does not work the way you wanted it. There are a few very important things that you should be aware of when considering buying a new 3D DLP projector or already have one, but you still haven’t used its 3D capabilities and you want to try them out. One of the most important advantages, besides the large projected screen of a 3D DLP projector is the fact that the technology does not suffer from issues with crosstalk, unlike 3D-capable monitors or 3D HDTVs. So let us see what is the most important information that you need to know.
When talking about a consumer level affordable 3D DLP projectors there are two main types of modes being used for providing support for stereo 3D, these are frame sequential input (can be over a VGA or HDMI interface) or HDMI 1.4 frame packaging. The interface and mode being used by a 3D DLP projector is very essential on what else will you need and how can you use the projector, so you must carefully choose the right interface based on what toy are going to be using the projector for and even depending on what other hardware you have in your PC. You should be well aware of the fact that there are still no affordable consumer level 3D DLP projectors capable of providing 1080p resolution in 3D mode with high-enough refresh rate for comfortable gaming. So regardless of the interface a 3D DLP projector uses and the native resolution it supports you can forget about being able to play games in stereo 3D mode at 1080p resolution for now, but you can still watch 3D movies at Full HD resolution if the projector is with 1080p native resolution. And this is just one of the examples of the limitations and features you should be well aware of when considering to use a 3D DLP projector, especially if you still haven’t purchased one. But there are a lot more specific things…
3D DLP Projector with frame sequential support:
– You can supply the frame sequential output over VGA or HDMI 1.3 interface.
– The projector is limited to 720p resolution in stereo 3D mode as maximum.
– In order to use the projector in stereo 3D mode it has to be in its native resolution (can be up to 720p).
– Besides being able to use stereo 3D mode at 60Hz per eye, you can also use 120Hz refresh rate in 2D mode.
– You can use any standard pair of DLP Link glasses with it, there is no need for any kind of emitter as the technology uses special kind of white light flashes embedded in the image being displayed.
– With DLP Link glasses you are good to watch 3D videos with the help of any software player capable of outputting 3D in frame sequential mode such as the Stereoscopic Player for example.
– With DLP Link glasses you are not able to directly play games in stereoscopic 3D mode or watch Blu-ray 3D movies without having to meet some additional hardware requirements and use extra software.
– You can use DLP Link glasses to play games in stereo 3D mode only if you have a compatible AMD-based graphics card supporting AMD’s HD3D technology (Radeon HD 5000 series and up) together with the TriDef 3D softare.
– You can use Nvidia’s 3D Vision active shutter glasses together with their specific IR emitter to play games in stereo 3D mode if you have a compatible Nvidia-based graphics card (GeForce 8×00 series and up), you can’t use DLP Link glasses with 3D Vision.
– Have in mind that both AMD and Nvidia have a list of officially supported 3D DLP projectors, so any model out of that list may or may not work, so there is no guarantee that you would be able to use it.
– If you want to be able to play Blu-ray 3D movies then DLP Link glasses are not an option and if you have AMD-based graphics you are out of luck, all of the software players supporting Blu-ray 3D playback on PC such as PowerDVD have support only for 3D DLP projectors using Nvidia’s 3D Vision technology.
3D DLP Projector with HDMI 1.4 frame packaged support:
– You need to use the HDMI 1.4 interface on the projector
– The projector should be either 720p or 1080p native resolution, you will be limited to respectively 720p or be able to use both 720p and 1080p resolutions for stereo 3D, but wit the limitation of using 720p resolution at only 50/60 Hz 3D mode or 1080p at 24Hz 3D mode.
– Even if the projector is with 1080p native resolution, the refresh rate supported at it in 3D mode is limited to 24Hz which is good on for 3D movies, for games you still have to resort back to 720p resolution where you can use either 50Hz or 60Hz in 3D mode.
– With HDMI 1.4 3D DLP projectors you are not able to use 120Hz refresh rate in 2D mode as you can with the frame sequential models.
– These projectors still rely mostly on the standard DLP Link glasses, though there are some models available offering RF glasses as well, but due to the specifics of the HDMI 1.4 3D support the type of glasses used is of not much concern as long as the projector is compatible with them.
– The 3D DLP Projector with HDMI 1.4 frame packaged support do not have support for frame sequential input.
– You cannot use the Nvidia 3D Vision active shutter glasses with these projectors, you either need a generic DLP Link glasses or any other specific model designed for the particular projector (RF glasses for example).
– You can play any kind of 3D videos and movies, including Blu-ray 3D movies as long as you have a software 3D video player and a video card capable of supporting HDMI 1.4 frame packaged output.
– All software players with support for Blu-ray 3D movie playback such as PowerDVD will be able to play 3D movies if you have at least an a second generation Intel Core processor (Sandy Bridge) in order to have support for Intel’s InTRU 3D technology, and this means Intel Core i3, Core i5 or Core i7 CPU, Pentium processors won’t do as they don’t feature InTRU 3D support. For owners of AMD-based video cards the minimum is Radeon HD 5000 series (all AMD HD3D capable video cards should work, though some may not support GPU acceleration for Blu-ray 3D) and for owners of Nvidia-based GPUs the minimum is GeForce GTX 260 or GeForce GT 320 according to Nvidia (some of supported GPUs might not have GPU acceleration).
– When talking about gaming in stereo 3D mode, using Intel’s integrated GPUs is out of the question as they are simply not powerful enough and regarding the AMD and Nvidia-based GPUs the limitation is the same as with Blu-ray 3D movie playback above – you need ca graphics card supporting either Nvidia’s 3DTV Play or AMD’s HD3D technology that can supply HDMI 1.4 frame packaged output.
– Owners of compatible AMD-based hardware with AMD HD3D technology supported need to use the TriDef 3D software (the same as frame sequential users would), owners of Nvidia-based graphics cards need to use Nvidia’s 3DTV Play software (instead of the 3D Vision for owners of frame sequential capable projectors).
– Have in mind that both AMD and Nvidia have a list of officially supported 3D DLP projectors, so any model out of that list may or may not work, so there is no guarantee that you would be able to use it.
– Projectors relying on HDMI 1.4 frame packaged input do tech do have more input lag than models using frame sequential input for stereo 3D and while this isn’t an issue for watching 3D video on them it can be a bit of a problem for some (not all) gamers playing in stereo 3D mode.
You should note that the newer 3D DLP projectors using HDMI 1.4 for 3D support are not suitable for some owners of older Nvidia-based hardware that would work with frame sequential models for example such as the GeForce 8800 which although old is still quite popular and widely used product and quite capable for gaming in the not so demanding 720p resolution even in stereo 3D mode. And with regards to the increased input lag required for the processing of the frame packaged 3D input and the lack of support for 120Hz 2D mode the frame sequential models might still be more attractive for people that are going to be using them mostly for gaming. On the other hand 3D DLP projectors using frame sequential mode are more restrictive and hard to setup for users that are going to be using them mostly for watching movies in 3D whereas the HDMI 1.4 interface makes it much easier. For gaming in stereo 3D mode on a 3D DLP projector there is still not way to get 1080p resolution, so the far that some 3D DLP projectors with HDMI 1.4 interface are with native resolution of 1080p does not help at all as you’d still have to resort to 720p resolution when playing games in stereo 3D mode anyway due to the limited refresh rate at the higher resolution.
DDD is offering a trial version of their TriDef 3D software and Nvidia also does offer you to download a 14-day trial version of the 3DTV Play software from their website, so you can get these to try things out and if everything works then you can buy a license for the software. There is no trial version of the 3D Vision software as it is a part of the Nvidia graphics driver now and it includes only free anaglyph 3D mode, the 3D Vision functionality is tied to hardware requirements as well anyway. If you already have the IR emitter of a 3D Vision kit connected to a PC you get free 3DTV Play functionality, so there is no need to buy a separate license for that.
AMD HD3D supported 3D DLP projectors (frame sequential):
As you can see 3D DLP projector support overlaps quite a bit in the frame sequential models, though there are some models and brands covered by official support only by either AMD or Nvidia. Unlike Nvidia however AMD is much more open to support for projectors supporting HDMI 1.4 frame packaging as there is no official list of devices on their website. Now, if you already own a 3D-capable DLP projector that is not on the list don’t worry, there is still some chance that you might be able to make it work via a workaround solution, however you should be warned that things like IR emitter emulators, or EDID override drivers may or may not work in your case and even if they tend to work you might face different issues or problems and you never know if they won’t stop working soon. So resort to trying the different workarounds (some of which are also being discussed on this website) as a last resort if you already own a device that is not on the officially compatible list, if you are making the decision on what to buy now, better choose a compatible model fitting your needs and requirements, as this can save you a lot of trouble later on.
Lately there are more and more articles regarding the not so bright future of stereoscopic 3D technology for gaming that center around what Nintendo’s president Satoru Iwata said about 3D not going to be a primary feature for Nintendo’s consoles anymore. But drawing a conclusion that stereoscopic 3D gaming is dying and now that the initial boom and big interest is over the interest in 3D technology will quickly wear off is totally wrong. And such one sided articles that don’t look trough the side of the normal gamer or consumer, coming from serious and well respected publications are frankly a disappointment (come on, at least try all aspects of 3D personally before saying it is a bad and stupid thing, draw conclusions from your own experience). With that said Nintendo is not going to drop the stereoscopic 3D support, they even have a stereoscopic 3D-capable game console – the Nintendo 3DS (XL). If you ask me however Nintendo’s problem starts with their approach to stereoscopic 3D support from the beginning and they have probably realized that now and want to make things the proper way, if it is not too late. As a product the Nintendo 3DS was a nice thing, but with a bit outdated features when it was released – small 3D screens, not very powerful for more realistic graphics, even the 3D camera was with pretty low resolution. Not to mention that there weren’t a lot of interesting game titles supporting stereoscopic 3D mode and some of the extra 3D features that you’d expect from a device like the Nintendo 3DS weren’t implemented at first, but were added via updates later on. This clearly shows that Nintendo was not ready with the 3DS when they’ve released it and that they did not have a very clear idea what they were doing, they probably saw the boom of interest in 3D as something that is going to bring back gamers to Nintendo.
A year later Nintendo has finally realized some of the problems they’ve had with the 3DS, so they have released a slightly bigger Nintendo 3DS XL console, but it essentially address only the smaller screen size and all the drawbacks of the 3DS. But for the sake of retaining full compatibility Nintendo couldn’t just go and upgrade other hardware inside the new XL console, so it is still outdated, even though it is offering stereoscopic 3D support with no glasses required. Another thing that Nintendo apparently did not think over initially is the target audience for the Nintendo 3DS console, clearly a lot of it is small kids and there are still a lot of concerns about the use of stereo 3D by young children. Hopefully by now Nintendo has also realized based on experience that 3D should not be there in games just to briefly wow you and then to constantly annoy you with with things in a game intentionally made to look “impressive” in stereoscopic 3D mode. Instead the 3D in games should be used as a tool to better tell the story of the game or make the experience seem more realistic, this is something that 3D movie makers have learned already and successful 3D movies show this is the right way to do things. So Nintendo should not blame the 3D as the reason that their product was not as successful as they probably expected, but instead should look for the reasons why it was not and try to make it right the next time from the beginning.
Next up is Sony and their PlayStation 3 console that has been updated to support stereoscopic 3D games and Blu-ray 3D movie playback, definitely a nice addition to bring back the console up to date with new trends some time after the hype around it has been totally gone since its initial release. The truth however is that PlayStation 3 is also a bit outdated in terms of hardware in order to compete with up to date PC graphics, especially if you add stereoscopic 3D rendering on top of a game. And a lot of gamers would prefer to have better 2D graphics in a game than to sacrifice some of the quality and get it rendered in stereoscopic 3D mode. Furthermore, in regards with the not so powerful hardware in the PS3, Sony has not developed a solution to allow older games to be converted in stereoscopic 3D mode – it would probably be too taxing for the console and even more graphics details should’ve been sacrificed to make things work, not to mention that there would’ve been some issues in games not being rendered in stereoscopic 3D mode properly. So Sony decided to start right from the beginning with new game titles optimized to support the new stereoscopic 3D mode, not so bad choice with regards to the things mentioned above, and the right way to offer proper stereoscopic 3D experience for the gamers even though sometimes compromises have to be made. The problem with that decision lies in the initial lack of content and having just one or two hit titles supporting stereo 3D did not help that much either. So the PS3 was initially more of a Blu-ray 3D player, though initially the number of movies available on BD 3D media also was somewhat lacing and even now it is still not that big, but at least it is constantly increasing. Sony however knew about these things, and most of all that it will take some time, because for Sony 3D support is not just about the PlayStation 3 console, the company is working on a whole ecosystem of 3D-capable products – 3D HDTVs, 3D projectors, 3D cameras and camcorders etc. And we should not forget the fact that even before adding stereoscopic 3D support the PS3 was already a successful product, so the 3D support here is just an extra to bring back user interest and increase the life of the product some more before the next generation becomes available.
Moving up to the third major player in the console gaming – Microsoft and their Xbox 360 game console. Microsoft was on the catching up side of things, though they followed a similar approach to Sony with the PS3. Initially Microsoft was not interested at all in adding stereoscopic 3D support to the Xbox 360, but that did not stop some game developers to experiment and add stereo 3D support using anaglyph or Side by Side and Over-Under output modes in their games. A bit later on Microsoft has finally added official support for stereoscopic 3D output for their console, but still the company did not focus that much on stereo 3D support in order to help game developers make more games that support the new feature. Stereoscopic 3D support was there, so that just Microsoft could say: “yes, we also support stereo 3D on our console like the competition”. The number of games supporting stereoscopic 3D mode on the Xbox is much less than on the PS3, and there is also the added confusion among customers between the support for the old non official stereo 3D rendering outputs and the new official one making it even harder for gamers that are not so knowledgeable in stereo 3D to make the decision to get a 3D display and try the feature on the Xbox 360. Microsoft however is not complaining, as stereo 3D support was never a key feature for them, as I’ve said they probably just wanted to be able to say “we support that as well, so the competition has no advantage over out our product”. But we need not forget that Microsoft is more of a software company than a hardware one and their focus is still mostly on the computers than on mobile devices and gaming consoles, though these are markets that they are actively developing as they still play the role of catching up to the competition, unlike with PCs where you can say they are the market leader and they set the trends. Just a reminder that one of the features that the new Windows 8 is going to have is native stereoscopic 3D support for output on compatible 3D display hardware.
Now, moving to PCs. Here we have two major players – AMD (ATI) and Nvidia, with both companies stereoscopic 3D mode for professional applications for quite a while along with different level of consumer level stereoscopic 3D support. Nvidia has been supporting stereoscopic 3D for years already dating back to CRT displays, however when the switch to LCD monitors happened the company has stopped developing their more generic stereoscopic 3D driver and has later on returned with a “new version” of the driver with the 3D Vision technology launch, focusing a lot more on stereo 3D support than before. AMD (ATI) has been working with middle-ware partners such as iZ3D and DDD for quite a while not having that much direct involvement, but lately they have become more active and have introduced their HD3D technology. The problem with the solutions offered by both companies is that they have strict hardware requirements and will not work on just about any 3D display that you can pick up. And while the iZ3D Driver and DDD’s TriDef 3D solutions provide more generic support for different stereoscopic 3D viewing methods, Nvidia’s 3D Vision is more closed and limited in terms of supported modes. The lack of common standard here and interoperability between the two solutions with different hardware is what is essentially confusing the users and if they decide to try and build a 3D setup and don’t get all the requirements correctly they often end up giving up on stereo 3D for a while. Both AMD and Nvidia do support 3D HDTVs through their solutions, meaning that it is easier to use a certain model of a 3D HDTV with each of the stereoscopic 3D solutions, however PC gamers generally prefer to go for 120Hz 3D LCD displays that can provide 1080p 3D mode with 60Hz per eye as well as 120HZ refresh rate when playing in non-stereoscopic 3D mode. The good thing is that both solutions work well with older games as well as with newer titles, converting them into stereoscopic 3D mode in real-time, though some games may have various issues as they have not been optimized to be used in stereoscopic 3D mode when being developed. Intel has also joined with promoting stereoscopic 3D support on their integrated graphics solutions, but not for gaming of course, instead it is for photo and movie playback in stereoscopic 3D mode, though only their more recent and higher-end processors with integrated graphics only meet the requirements for that.
Another thing that is more recently also getting a momentum in stereoscopic 3D support on mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets with the reason behind that being the fact that the processing power of these devices has greatly increased and allows them to also provide good stereoscopic 3D experience even in games. The situation with the 3D-capable mobile devices is pretty much the same as with other solutions, what is delaying their faster adoption is mostly the lack of good stereoscopic 3D content to use on them.
So what is clearly still an issue ahead of all stereoscopic 3D gaming solutions – on consoles or on PC, is the lack of enough good content – stereoscopic 3D movies and stereoscopic 3D games. You need to have a big choice of quality 3D content, no matter if it is games or movies. So now that all of these companies are having the hardware, though it may not be perfect or easy to use for beginners (another issue), they should start focusing on making good 3D content for it. Without good content to play on your stereoscopic 3D hardware you’d quickly conclude that it is pointless and stupid thing, especially considering the price you need to play to get things working, with the most affordable solution being the Nintendo 3DS, though far from being the best one. So what is the conclusion of all this, instead of blaming the 3D technology for not being good enough, widely accessible, or easy to be used, all of the above companies should be pushing more not only to improve in these areas, but mostly to provide more and I stress on MORE good 3D content for their products. It is simple as that, focus more on 3D content and not on 3D technology, and it seems that things are still being done the other way around.