Mobile VR and its future

Posted by Abhijeet Naik at 2017-04-01 11:43:01

Mobile VR and its future

In today’s world, a smartphone is our natural extension. We rely on our smartphone for our day to day tasks from emails, reminders, to phonecalls. With our smartphones we can connect to many people around the globe making us super-humans. Smartphone’s computing power are getting powerful every year. The computing power of a smartphone has two major components -> the CPU (Central Processing Unit) and the GPU (Graphical Processing Unit). The CPU is responsible for all sorts of single core and multi-core activities from handling of multi-tasking activities to optimal multimedia with optimised video/images or any other applications that we use. The GPU is responsible for handling all 3D-graphics intense application. And in most smartphones these 2 component work together in a stack giving you ultimate multimedia, multitasking, gaming and of-course High Quality Mobile VR. 

Not long back these amazing visuals were not possible on smartphones. If we compare desktop gaming back in 1999- 2000, Nvidia launched its first graphics card named Geforce 256 which had first rendering engine capable of handling lighting, processing 10 million polygon count per second which was fast for its debut graphics card. 

 This, I believe, changed the gaming/graphics industry dramatically. In these last 17 years, the 3D graphics industry has jumped leaps and bounds from that Geforce 256. We now have Mobile GPU’s like Adreno 530 used in Snapdragon 821 mobile processors which is capable of doing amazing things like realistic light effects, rendering millions of triangles, accurate physics calculations and much more. With these Mobile GPU’s and fast low latency display’s like OLED and some minor screen tweaking techniques? like using TimeWarp and VR lens distortion brought Mobile Virtual Reality into existence. That said, there are a lot of limitations in terms of graphics if we compare it to a desktop grade Virtual Reality devices like Oculus Rift and/or HTC Vive. These desktop grade VR have the advantage of using desktop grade graphics cards like Nvidia Ge force 1080 TI, which is the latest line up of graphics card from Nvidia. These cards are further optimised for virtual reality and can do amazing number of draw calls, supports advanced real time global illumination which can help a virtual world look more realistic. Mobile Virtual Reality compared to desktop grade VR have few advantages as well, since current gen smartphones have high resolution such as 2K display which makes textures and materials in mobile VR look really great compared to Oculus Rift or HTC Vive. With the advancement in mobile GPU and mobile processors, we now have Vulkan, wait what? Is it a bird? No its not a bird rather its an advanced graphics rendering API capable of rendering Dynamic lighting for small to medium scenes, more number of draw calls are now supported with this graphics rendering API. Sadly, this API integration is not yet avaliable for mobile virtual reality, but will come soon to mobile VR platforms like Google Daydream and Samsung Galaxy S8 Gear VR. In the next 5 years?, with the current rate of smartphone evolution we should get 2012 level of graphics desktop quality on mobile devices.

Vulkan is going to change the future of mobile graphics and mobile VR, as VR developers can use the Vulkan API integration to get their scenes close to reality and in VR. We need this gap in Mobile VR to be closed as soon as possible, as we believe Mobile is the future of VR and not desktop VR which require high-end gaming rigs. 


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