Oculus Rift’s minimum specifications just became a lot more affordable
PC virtual reality is an expensive business. Not only do virtual-reality headsets cost upwards of £500, but you need a beefy computer to run them. There’s a good reason for this: in virtual reality, even the occasional dropped frame can make you feel nauseous.
That hasn’t changed, but Oculus has found a clever way around the problem, with the knock-on effect of reducing the Rift’s minimum system requirements.
While reiterating his insistence that Oculus apps “must hit 90 frames per second, period”, Oculus co-founder Brendan Iribe explained that the device’s previous advancement – asynchronous timewarp – managed to reduce frame dropping by 11%. It did so by pre-rendering images before they were required.
If you thought that “asynchronous timewarp” was a ridiculously science-fiction name for a routine bit of processing, prepare for its sequel: asynchronous spacewarp.
Realising that the previous technique would only work when players were standing still and not looking around, the Oculus team came up with a better solution for when an entire scene changes. Simply, the system examines the two frames previously generated and then generates a “synthetic frame” based on the differences between the two. This means that when spacewarp is active, the system can run at half the acceptable frame rate, because the system will be able to bump a nausea-inducing 45fps animation up to a buttery-smooth 90fps.
In terms of quality, it’s no substitute for native 90fps gameplay, Iribe was keen to point out, but it does mean that computers previously deemed not powerful enough for Oculus can join the party. In fact, Iribe demonstrated this with the introduction of a $499 (~£400) VR ready computer: a CyberPowerPC running an AMD FX-4350 processor and a Radeon RX 470 graphics card.
That’s around half the price of the original computers that got the Oculus sign-off. That means that for the first time, a PC and Oculus bundle has reached the tempting $1,000 (~£800) price point – but more importantly, if you were disappointed that your ageing PC couldn’t run Oculus before, you might want to check again.