Virtual Reality to Take Center Stage at Nvidia's GTC Event

Officials with the GPU maker unveil the company's new Quadro M5500 graphics offering and say Nvidia is working with such OEMs as HP, Dell and Lenovo.


SAN JOSE, Calif.—Virtual reality technology promises to be a central topic during Nvidia's GPU Technology Conference here this week, with Nvidia officials ahead of the event unveiling the first mobile graphics chip for the company's VR Ready program.

The program is designed to give system OEMs, developers, businesses and software vendors the tools they need to develop products for virtual reality (VR) computing. In a post on the company blog, writer David Weinstein wrote that Nvidia is working with an array of system makers—including Dell, HP Inc. and Lenovo—to build professional workstations that use Nvidia's VR-ready GPUs and meet the recommended minimum requirements.

"Nvidia GPUs are the keystone of VR because graphics requirements are so high," Weinstein wrote. "Head-mounted displays, for example, require 90 frames per second, with a display for each eye."

Nvidia and Advanced Micro Devices both see the emerging VR and augmented reality (AR) markets as fertile growth areas. In the lead-up to the GPU Technology Conference (GTC), Nvidia unveiled the new Quadro M5500 GPU, which sports 2,048 CUDA cores, is based on the company's Maxwell architecture and, according to officials, is the world's fastest mobile GPU.

The first laptop to use the M5500 is the MSI WT72. At the same time, HP officials on April 4 announced the company is working with Nvidia to build workstations to enable users to develop and deliver VR experiences. HP is launching its new Z Workstation configurations that use Nvidia Maxwell GPUs. The HP Z840 uses two M6000 24GB cards and supports Nvidia's VR Scalable Link Interface (SLI) technology, which officials said doubles the system rendering power. The graphics cards enable top performance through the support for Nvidia's GPU Affinity API and VR Synchronization technologies.

The new workstation family also includes the Z240 armed with the Quadro M5000 and the Z640, which includes the M6000. The systems are available now starting at $4,363. Initially, the Dual M6000 24Gb cards will be an aftermarket option and will be integrated into the systems in May.

"We are embarking on a new frontier that will change how content producers and artists develop the most immersive, visually stimulating content available," said Jeff Wood, vice president of worldwide product management for HP's Workstations and Thin Clients unit.

HP's announcement comes almost a week after Dell announced its own VR Ready program and new Precision desktop workstations that run on the latest Intel Xeon processors and give customers the option of Nvidia or AMD graphics technologies.

In addition, Nvidia officials said Lenovo's P500, P710 and P900 also all come with the Nvidia-recommended configurations for VR.

Also at the show, Nvidia is featuring eight startups in the VR space as part of the VR Showcase at the Emerging Companies Summit April 6. The startups are developing products for such industries as health care, architecture, engineering and tourism.

"Everything changed for VR startups two years ago when Facebook announced it would pay $2 billion for headset-maker Oculus," Alain Tiquet, group director at Nvidia, wrote in another post on the company blog. "Facebook's big bet was the signal other investors needed."

The result is that in the two years since the Facebook-Oculus deal, venture capital money invested in VR an AR has tripled, Tiquet said, citing a report by CB Insights, a venture capital research firm.

VR will be a central theme during Nvidia CEO Jen-Hsun Huang's keynote address at the show April 5. Other topics will include artificial intelligence and autonomous vehicles.