Radeon Pro Duo spearheads AMD's push for VR dominance

The red team gets spicy with Capsaicin

GDC—At its Capsaicin event this evening, AMD took the wraps off a wide range of software and hardware projects that put the spotlight on virtual reality. The company boasts that its products underpin 83% of VR-capable entertainment systems around the world, a figure driven in large part by the company's presence in the console space. AMD is also exploring VR opportunities beyond gaming in the health care, education, media, training and simulation, and entertainment industries.

First and foremost, the company is releasing a new graphics card called the Radeon Pro Duo. This is the dual-Fiji card (previously known as Gemini or the Fury X2) that CEO Lisa Su first showed off in June of last year. The card comes with 8GB of HBM VRAM. Like the Fury X before it, this card relies on liquid cooling to manage its prodigious heat output. According to AnandTech's Ryan Smith, the card will come with ISV-validated drivers for professional applications, much like AMD FirePro cards.

The Pro Duo is the first card in what AMD is calling its "Radeon VR Ready Creator" program—products meant to serve double duty as powerful VR development and playback platforms alike. The company says the card will deliver 16 TFLOPS of compute performance, and it'll be available early in the second quarter of this year with a $1500 price tag.

Polaris may be the first step in AMD's next-generation GPU architectures, but Radeon Technologies Group VP Raja Koduri also shared a tantalizing look at the company's next-generation roadmap. While the company does admit this roadmap is subject to change, that projected info does offer a first look at when we can expect various features (like HBM2) to arrive on future AMD graphics cards.

AMD is also partnering with Crytek to put Pro Duo-equipped PCs in universities around the world as part of Crytek's VR First project. Crytek and AMD plan to work together to promote VR development for head-mounted devices like the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive using AMD's LiquidVR SDK. LiquidVR is a set of development tools for virtual reality applications. AMD says that its tools let devs perform GPU-accelerated head tracking, harness multiple graphics cards to scale rendering performance, pass head-tracking data to the GPU with a minimum of latency, and ease the process of connecting and displaying VR content on VR headsets.

Along with the VR Creator product tier, AMD is also introducing a "Radeon VR Ready Premium" badge that will identify Radeon graphics cards and Radeon-equipped PCs that should offer a high-quality VR experience. One of those systems is the HP Envy Phoenix desktop we looked at a couple weeks ago. Cards from the Radeon R9 290 series and up should be eligible for the VR Ready Premium badge.

Last, but certainly not least, AMD showed off a version of its Polaris 10 GPU running Hitman. From what we know so far, Polaris 10 is AMD's "console-class" graphics card for thin-and-light notebooks. The company expects that graphics chips and cards using Polaris 10 silicon will be able to deliver as much as two times the performance per watt of Nvidia's GeForce GTX 950. The company says that it demonstrated Polaris 11 in December of last year. If that's the case, a Polaris 11 chip running Star Wars Battlefront at 1080p and 60 FPS drew about 90W at the wall. A similarly-configured, GTX-950-equipped PC drew about 140W during that same demo.

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