AMD Partnering With Sulon on VR Headset

At the Game Developer Conference, AMD says the Sulon Q will be an all-in-one VR headset that won't have to be tethered to a system.

AMD VR headset

Advanced Micro Devices is looking to grow an already strong position in an emerging virtual reality market that is quickly becoming crowded.

At the 2016 Game Developer Conference March 14, AMD officials outlined the multiple paths the chip maker is taking in the virtual reality (VR) market and new efforts that are underway. Getting the most attention is a collaboration with Sulon Technologies, which makes the Sulon HMD headset for VR and augmented reality (AR) applications.

AMD is working with Sulon, a startup based in Toronto, on the Sulon Q, an all-in-one headset for VR, AR and spatial computing that doesn't need to be tethered to a system. The headset will include AMD's Radeon graphics chips and its LiquidVR technology designed to improve the VR and AR experience. Sulon Q will include AMD's FX-8800P accelerated processing unit (APU), which includes Radeon R7 graphics.

The Sulon Q, which would be a rival to such systems as the Occulus Rift headset, also will include 802.11ac WiFi and Bluetooth 4.1 connectivity, 8GB of DDR3 memory and 256GB of solid-state drive (SSD) storage.

According to Sasa Marinkovic, head of software and VR marketing for AMD, the spatial mapping technology scans the environment and gestures in real time and virtualizes them to enable the user to interact with objects in new ways.

"It's incredibly sophisticated technology that's absolutely simple and intuitive to use," Marinkovic wrote in a post on the company blog. "You put it on, turn it on, and you're immersed in a virtual world that almost indistinguishably feels and interacts as you would expect from the real world."

She noted that the Sulon Q also will also impact how users watch movies and play video games.

"Sulon-compatible movies and games will change looking at flat, 2D scenes into 3D, interactive and customizable viewing opportunities that place you at the center of the action," Marinkovic wrote.

Also at the show, AMD demonstrated its upcoming Polaris 10 GPU, which was running Valve's Aperture Science Robot Repair demonstration that is powered by the HTC Vive Pre VR headset. The chip maker in January unveiled the Polaris architecture, the fourth generation of its Graphics Core Next (GCN). It's a 14-nanometer architecture that embraces the FinFET transistor design that officials at the time said will power a range of uses cases, from laptop games to multimedia to VR applications that can run on small form-factor systems.

In addition, AMD unveiled a new two-tier certification program for GPUs and VR that let OEMs, other system builders and partners tell consumers and content creators which Radeon products are best to use with Occulus Rift and HTC Vive headsets.

Radeon VR Ready Premium is a certification program for Radeon R9 290-class graphics cards and higher, and system makers can get the program’s seal on their products. The Radeon VR Ready Creator program is aimed at VR professionals, experience designers and developers and offers certification for products that use an upcoming graphics card with AMD's LiquidVR software-development kit (SDK).

AMD officials also highlighted other aspects of the company's VR efforts, including the growing adoption of the LiquidVR technology, and its collaborations with an array of companies in healthcare, entertainment, education and training and simulation, to expand the use of VR beyond gaming and into the business world. They also pointed to a report by Jon Peddie Research that AMD powers 83 percent of the home entertainment VR systems worldwide, due in large part by the chip maker's dominance among game consoles.

AMD's announcement came hours after rival Qualcomm unveiled a VR SDK that company officials said will give developers the tools they need to more easily build VR software with the ARM-based Snapdragon 820 system-on-a-chip (SoC).