Nvidia harnesses eye-tracking to improve VR rendering efficiency

Talk to any forward-looking engineer at AMD or Nvidia about VR, and they'll tell you that producing life-like scenes is going to require new approaches than the brute-force methods that we employ today with traditional monitors. One of those approaches is foveated rendering, which improves efficiency by taking advantage of the fact that we see fine detail in only a narrow range of our field of vision. Nvidia has already toyed with a similar idea with its "Multi-res Shading" approach, which renders different portions of the VR frame at different resolutions to improve efficiency.

The most advanced methods of foveated rendering require a VR headset with eye-tracking built in. As it happens, German company SMI has built just such a headset. In turn, Nvidia established a partnership to use that hardware in developing a new method of foveated rendering that purports to deliver a major increase in efficiency.

Nvidia says it first discovered that aggressive resolution reductions (or foveation) in the periphery of images tends to produce noticeable artifacting, like what might happen with Multi-res Shading. Blurring the edges of images instead can apparently result in a "tunnel vision" effect, thanks to the reduction in contrast it causes. By adding a contrast-preservation step to the blur approach, Nvidia found that users can tolerate a blur that's as much as twice as strong as would be the case without the heightened contrast. 

Nvidia and SMI will be showing off their work in the Emerging Tech section of the SIGGRAPH conference, which opens on July 24.

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