Nvidia has launched initial versions of two software development kits built exclusively for virtual reality projects: GameWorks VR and DesignWorks VR.
The company's response to the burgeoning virtual reality market, which is expected to explode early next year with the commercial launch of high-profile devices including the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive, GameWorks VR and DesignWorks VR aim to make the building of VR content considerably easier and faster - the latter thanks to the introduction of a new technology Nvidia calls Multi-Res Shading.
Built into GameWorks VR, the gaming-centric VR SDK, Multi-Res Shading renders each part of the image at a resolution which best matches the pixel density of the image post-warping for headset display. Compatible with any Maxwell or newer Nvidia GPU, the technology allows multiple-scaled viewports to be rendered in a single pass - boosting performance by up to 50 per cent, Nvidia claims, with no noticeable loss of quality. The development kit also introduces VR SLI, a specially-tailored version of the company's multi-GPU technology which allows each GPU to render a particular eye's viewport - offering another performance boost, Nvidia claims.
Other enhancements available to developers using the GameWorks VR SDK include context priority for cutting latency through asynchronous time warp, Direct Mode which treats VR headsets as specific devices rather than generic display devices to improve compatibility, and front buffer rendering for further latency reductions. Support for all these features is being added to the most popular game engines, Nvidia has claimed, with Unreal Engine 4 likely to be among the first to offer Multi-Res Shading and VR SLI compatibility.
For those working on non-gaming VR projects, DesignWorks VR is a little less focused. Designed for everything from medical imaging to 3D filmmaking, DesignWorks VR includes warp and blend APIs, synchronisation features designed to prevent tearing and judder in multi-GPU environments, GPU affinity, and a Direct for Video mode for head-mounted and immersive display use.
Both SDKs are available now through the Nvidia Developer Portal