The hardware requirements of VR seemed to be an unknown quantity, there was always the argument that more GPU performance and CPU performance would translate to better VR. This has turned out to be partially untrue with the latest generation of mobile VR. The reality is that VR and latency-intensive high intensity workloads are a significant strain on both the CPU and GPU inside of a smartphone and as a result have caused throttling and overheating in some devices. Additionally, there were no hardware specifications tied to a good experience in VR, every company made the decisions they thought were right and built on those views in order to deliver the best VR in their mind. Most developers and hardware makers up until recently have been targeting things like GearVR and Google Cardboard with Cardboard having much less control over the experience. In fact, with the exception of GearVR, mobile VR has been quite stagnant since the creation of Google Cardboard and GearVR. The lack of new innovation was really starting to hurt mobile VR and VR as a whole.
Then, everything changed with Google's Daydream VR announcement at Google I/O 2016. Google's new Daydream platform was not just a focus on software and SDKs, they also introduced a minimum frame rate target of 60 FPS and a hardware specification that manufacturers needed to meet in order to deliver the 60 FPS. Manufacturers that make these Daydream enabled devices are going to do so later this year with the help of chip companies like ARM, Imagination, MediaTek, Qualcomm, Samsung and others. This means that the chip suppliers and manufacturers are going to have to be able to not only deliver a certain level of performance, but also to do so in a way that is sustainable over longer periods of time and doesn't suffer as much throttling. More importantly, Google has made it abundantly clear that both Android N and Daydream will both focus heavily on sustained performance and delivering the best long-term experience, not the one you see for a few seconds.
Companies like ARM are getting ahead of the Daydream trend with their latest chips like the new ARM Cortex-A73 and Mali Graphics G71. Both of ARM's new processors are designed to be made on the leading process nodes and both of them are designed to take advantage of these new process nodes by delivering unprecedented sustained performance. Plus, with optimized native support for APIs like Vulkan, ARM's Mali G71 is designed to be able to squeeze more performance per watt out of every smartphone while utilizing as little CPU as possible. With the significant improvements to sustained performance in processors like the ARM Cortex-A73, there are fewer chances a developer or gamer will see frame rate drops due to CPU throttling. ARM's new Mali-G71 and Cortex-A73 processors won't be available in the first batch of Daydream devices since many of the first Daydream devices will launch this fall. These new processors are expected to be available from ARM licensees in 2017 and using process new process nodes like TSMC's 10nm.
It has taken some time, but things are really starting to heat up in the mobile VR space. Mobile VR is going to be the VR that drives the entire industry one way or another and ultimately what will determine VR's arrival to the mainstream. Having concrete standards to follow and build to is going to be extremely helpful for many companies inside of the ecosystem. It is important that someone like Google stepped up to the plate and created a platform like Daydream to get the ecosystem to come together under one common target. It is also extremely important that there are companies out there like ARM answering Google's Daydream challenge and creating new processors utilizing the latest process technology so that their customers can build some of the best chips for VR that deliver Daydream's needs for high sustained performance and not just peak performance.