Gaming is a huge market for virtual reality (VR). We’re already seeing many existing console and PC-based titles being adapted for VR, adding a new layer of immersion to the gaming experience. An Arm-commissioned report by the market intelligence agency Newzoo on the AR and VR opportunity in gaming revealed that 73 percent who had experienced VR recently had used it to play games – the most of any category for VR experiences.
Consumers who have tried VR for gaming have reacted very positively. “Otherworldly” and “amazing” were just some of the comments used to describe the AR and VR experience in an online survey of 1,000 US consumers – many of whom were gamers – by TECHnalysis Research, a leading technology analyst firm.
These comments matched my own personal experience when I tried out the new Oculus Quest, an all-in-one gaming system for VR which is built on Arm Cortex technology, for the very first time. Alongside the “otherworldly” and “amazing” gaming experience, the Oculus Quest also tackles some of the most common challenges associated with VR – the high cost, bulky and tethered hardware and below-par visuals.
Premium VR experiences still remain costly, which can be a barrier to mass consumer take-up. While the price point for premium VR systems could still go lower, the $400 starting cost for the Oculus Quest is reasonable for an all-in-one VR gaming system and lower than previous systems. Current trends suggest that the cost is likely to keep going down, making VR systems far more affordable and accessible for new users.
Another criticism of VR is the bulky hardware, which can make headsets uncomfortable for the user. This is not an issue for the Oculus Quest, which offers a comfortable, compact and lightweight headset. The design helps to enable more prolonged VR gaming, longer than the current average playing time of 40 minutes.
Perhaps more importantly, the Oculus Quest is completely untethered during gameplay. This means users can play VR games almost anywhere with just a headset and touch controllers. The camera tracking and 6 degrees of freedom add to the gameplay, providing a truly immersive experience through tracking all of the user’s movements, from head posture to hand movements. Users can also move around more freely without being slowed down, or tripped up, by wires. However, if users get carried away playing VR games and moving around wire-free, the Quest’s “virtual cage” flips the game to camera mode so users know when they're straying from the playing zone. Switching to a Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 SoC has helped the move to untethered systems, with previous Oculus devices being attached to stations and docks due to the high energy constraints of x86 implementations.
The final challenge is the visuals. Going back to the survey from TECHnalysis Research, high resolution screens were most in demand from users who have tried VR. The Oculus Quest offers an impressive display resolution of 1440 x 1600 per eye, especially when this is compared to the Oculus Rift which had 1080 x 1200 per eye.
Related to visuals is the challenge of VR-inspired motion sickness. This is a fairly common problem for VR, with it being experienced by more than 40 percent of users on at least one occasion. The motion sickness is caused by latency when translating the user’s movements in the real-world into the virtual world. The Oculus Quest tackles this particular challenge through the Oculus Insight which translates all of the user’s movements into VR – from moving left or right, looking around and ducking for cover.
All these movements and actions were used when I was playing one of the Oculus Quest’s headline games – Beat Saber – which requires users to constantly move their hands through the touch controllers, move left and right, and duck for cover. The responsiveness to my own movements being replicated in VR was extremely impressive. I never felt any sort of time lag, which meant I didn’t feel queasy and, more importantly, could play the game for far longer. The First Steps demo was also extremely helpful in making me understand how to use the system and the controllers, from how to pick up objects to how to shoot guns.
As I mentioned at the start, the Oculus Quest uses the Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 SoC, which is built on Arm Cortex technology. The performance and power efficiency benefits of Arm technology mean users can enjoy immersive and interactive VR over a prolonged playing time. Moreover, it perfectly supports standalone VR devices like the Oculus Quest where a series of trade-offs are required, such as resolution and field of view against weight, cost and battery life. Eliminating or reducing the impact of these trade-offs is where Arm technology really stands out and provides huge value.
Arm’s future involvement in VR looks very promising. Our recently launched Cortex-A77 CPU, Mali-G77 GPU and Mali-D77 DPU all offer VR improvements, enabling more and better pixels for longer and deeper experiences. Moreover, the area, bandwidth and efficiency savings provided by all three products will support the development of even lighter and more comfortable headsets in the future.
Of particular relevance to future VR innovation is Mali-D77, which simultaneously enables better quality VR and frees rendering resources to deliver more immersive and prolonged experiences. Today, the GPU handles much of the VR workloads, but this is quite inefficient and takes time away from the GPU’s more important job of rendering the immersive graphics. Performing VR workloads – such as matching the user’s movements and replicating these in the virtual world – on the DPU rather than the GPU saves power and gives resource back to the GPU while performing better and more consistent visuals. Mali-D77 also virtually eliminates the dreaded motion sickness problem!
As Ian Pilkington has noted in an article for Arm Blueprint, we’re at the start of truly immersive VR gaming. However, this will not be possible without the new wave of standalone VR devices, such as the Oculus Quest. Indeed, the Oculus Quest represents a big step change for VR through being an affordable, comfortable, lightweight and untethered device that also offers a range of VR performance improvements for users. This provides a more immersive VR gaming experience and removes some of the shortcomings potentially hindering the mass adoption of VR devices.
In the future, it is likely that the development of more standalone devices alongside further technology innovation will drive an increasing number of consumers to experience VR in all its glory. At the heart of these developments will be Arm technology, enabling the performance and form factor improvements that will help deliver more and improved VR experiences and devices to users.
You can experience the new Oculus Quest at Arm TechCon on 9 and 10 October in the Expo Hall at the San Jose Convention Center. During the two days, we will be holding a Beat Saber competition on the Oculus Quest demo, with the highest scorers from each day winning a Quest for themselves!
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