LiquidVR is an SDK designed to make it easier to for developers to create virtual reality software.
LiquidVR and the SDK
AMD, the chip manufacturer, is also the company behind LiquidVR.
According to their website, LiquidVR is intended to make VR comfortable and realistic by maintaining “what’s know as ‘presence’ – a state of immersive awareness where situations, objects, or characters within the virtual world seem ‘real.’”
The stumbling block to maintaining this presence, they say, is overcoming motion-to-photon latency. If it takes more than 10 milliseconds for the hardware and software to catch up with a user’s movements, then the illusion of immersion will be destroyed.
As you might imagine, VR requires immense processing power, which makes AMD an ideal candidate to fuel this platform.
They presented their platform at GDC 2015 in San Francisco. According to one of the AMD reps, you don’t need to use the Oculus SDK at all. You can simply “plug an Oculus Rift into a computer and start 3D rendering directly into the headset.”
Most of the time PCs will recognize Oculus as another monitor. But the LiquidVR SDK is designed to deliver a seamless plug-and-play VR experience: simply plug in an Oculus Rift and the computer recognizes it as a VR headset.
Ultimately, says Raja Koduri, the company’s graphics CTO, AMD wants to drive virtual reality to photo realism. This, of course, will mean “full sensory integration,” scalable, CPUs, GPUs, and more.
According to Koduri, successful VR immersion means adherence to two essential principles: don’t break presence and “if your CPU and GPU can’t keep up, you throw up.”
AMD has many more plans in the works. They hinted not only at VR and gaming, but pointed out that VR will also have applications in education, medicine, simulations and training, and big data visualization.
There are also rumors of collaboration with HTC and Valve on the Vive headset, but details are still forthcoming. And most of these developments are still a ways away.
How LiquidVR Tackles Latency
Virtual reality has been around for 20 years, but it has yet to hit the mainstream. And this is why there are still plenty of skeptics who are hesitant to invest resources into the industry.
As mentioned, one big obstacle to this widespread adoption is latency: if it doesn’t feel real, then you won’t be immersed. And if the lag is too great, you might “throw up,” as Koduri put it.
Magic Leap’s CEO, Rony Abovitz, criticized VR technology for this very reason. He was blunt about his disdain for VR: “The worst thing going on right now is stereoscopic 3-D systems.” He went on to criticize technology such as Microsoft’s HoloLens.
In the past, Oculus has openly acknowledged these motion-sickness problems.
And AMD’s LiquidVR system is one potential solution to the problem.
It presents a variety of features aimed at removing “motion-to-photon” latency:
● Latest Data Latch – This is designed for efficient GPU head-tracking. The two GPUs, which are present in each goggle, retrieve, or latch, the “latest data at the moment it needs to use that data.”
● Asynchronous Shaders – By simultaneously using Asynchronous Compute Engines in Graphics Core Next architecture, LiquidVR can process VR images in parallel with rendering. This minimizes latency and reduces juddering.
● Affinity Multi-GPU – This assigns one GPU to each goggle. It minimizes CPU overhead and reduces latency more than previous techniques such as alternate frame rendering – which could cause latency between each eye.
● Direct-to-Display – With an AMD Radeon graphics card, the headset will gain direct application control, no matter who built the headset.
While new API advances have also been announced, such as DirectX 12 and OpenGL, AMD will currently be enabled only through DirectX11.
Upcoming Developments in the VR World
The AR and VR industries are both moving quite quickly, as can be seen from the surge in tech investments:
● Microsoft debuted the Microsoft HoloLens, which impressed almost everyone…except the CEO of Magic Leap.
● Apple has been sitting on VR headset patents for years. And at the end of last year, rumors swirled about potential VR developments when Apple posted job listings for VR programmers.
● Google Glass has already been around for a while. And their enormous investment in the AR company Magic Leap makes it clear they will be a big player in the AR/VR space.
● There are plenty of cheap smartphone-based VR headsets hitting the market, which will only increase adoption speed. Google Cardboard is one popular example, and a 3D-printable design has even been released.
● And as AMD jumps on board the VR bandwagon with LiquidVR, it’s becoming obvious that the whole landscape is heating up.
While VR technology has a ways to go before current hardware can catch up, LiquidVR is clearly making major strides. As many new companies enter the marketplace, the VR industry will only continue to grow.
At this rate, 2015 may become known as the Year of VR.