Why AMD is focusing efforts on VR

One year ago, AMD was in a terrible spot. It’s main competitor, nVidia was riding the wave of its immensely successful GTX 900 series of graphics cards, racking in a substantial percentage of the industries market share. nVidia had agreements with many large game companies, optimizing them to work with Gameworks, their proprietary drivers that worked alongside it’s own graphics computing hardware. At the time, AMD didn’t have anything publicly available which came close to what nVidia was offering.

They hadn’t updated their lineup of hardware in quite a long time, and their drivers were buggy and slow. In comparison to what nVidia was offering, it just wasn’t viable to buy a card made by AMD. Instead of working to make their hardware and software better, the company opted to badmouth nVidia, speaking about how bad Gameworks was for the industry. The idea of company-optimized games is certainly a cause for concern, as it causes bias to be had with developer optimization. However, nVidia did put in the effort to get the games working with their hardware, and if AMD wanted to, they likely could have done the same thing. Eventually, AMD seemed to have realized that badmouthing their competitor really wasn’t accomplishing anything, and they needed to do something about it.

AMD went on to release the Radeon R9 Nano, a card that used a brand new technology the industry had never seen before, tagged “HBM” or “High Bandwidth Memory” . This was a huge step for the industry, which as been stuck with the same GDDR technology for the last decade. The new technology meant that you could effectively generate the same amount of compute performance in half the space, leaving room for almost twice the performance in a similar form factor. The card didn’t exactly sell like hot cakes, as it was decently overpriced at launch for what it offered, but it did help usher in the idea of changing an aging market space to be as efficient as other current technologies. Since the launch of that card, AMD has gone on to upgrade it’s Radeon drivers to a new Crimson version, which offered huge upgrades to the UI and game performance. The company was finally showing change instead of just talking about it, and with new promising architectures on the horizon, it’s been starting to look like AMD could walk away with a huge win this year.


High performance on a GPU is one of the most important things a computer can have when rendering VR technology. Running at a consistent 90Hz at 2k resolution is not an easy thing to do, but is absolutely necessary for headsets like the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive so that customers don’t get motion sick. With the release of HMB technology, AMD is shaping up to take hold of this new and evolving industry, and lead the market towards more cost effective compute power for these experiences.

VR content creation is a market and business in of itself,”

says AMD’s  Roy Taylor.

Previously, if you look at the 3D industry, or any new and emerging technology, the content creation industry has always been necessary to support, but as a market by itself, not anywhere as big as consumption. Right now the content creation industry is as big as the consumption industry and that’s why I go to quite a lot of effort to talk about VRaaS [virtual reality as a service].

The other thing that’s important to note is, right now, all the focus is on consumers. Where are the games? But the VRaaS market will keep VR going, even if consumers are disappointed. There are so many applications for VR that will sustain an industry while it develops itself…The interesting thing is to compare games to Hollywood, where no one is waiting for anyone—everyone is jumping straight in. We have an office in Hollywood, a team in Hollywood. Believe it or not, Nvidia doesn’t have anyone within 200 miles of Hollywood—not a single soul.

AMD’s commitment to the space is quite evident, as it has just released it’s Radeon Pro Duo graphics card, aimed at perfecting virtual reality experiences. This card isn’t exactly targeting consumers, as it costs the hefty price of $1500, but it’s a move in the right direction in an effort to get the best possible experience out of virtual reality headsets. The card houses a pair of AMD’s Fury graphics solutions, and should help developers to remove the compute cap that becomes present when rendering high end VR games.

With a new CPU architecture right around the corner and it’s new HBM 2 graphics solutions coming soon after, it would not be surprising at all to see Advanced Micro Devices make a resurgence into the personal computing space, fueled by the new and exiting technology which is virtual reality.

What do you want to see from AMD in the future? Are you using any of their hardware now? Let us know.

via: Ars Technica UK

Photo Credit: Ars Technica UK


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