AMD announced the acquisition of Nitero, a fabless semiconductor company based out of Austin, TX that developed a phased-array beamforming millimeter wave chip for VR headsets.
Although the terms of the acquisition were not made public, we do know that the deal not only includes Nitero’s wireless virtual reality IP, but all its employees as well. The company's co-founder and CEO, Pat Kelly, will join AMD as Corporate Vice President, Wireless IP.
Demand for wireless VR and AR headsets is on the rise, so it only makes sense that a company as heavily invested in virtual reality as AMD would make a move like this. Mark Papermaster, AMD’s chief technology officer and senior vice president, said in a press release:
Unwieldly headset cables remain a significant barrier to drive widespread adoption of VR. Our newly acquired wireless VR technology is focused on solving this challenge, and is another example of AMD making long-term technology investments to develop high-performance computing and graphics technologies that can create more immersive computing experiences.
The press release went on to state that, by using high-performance 60GHz wireless, Nitero's phased-array beamforming millimeter wave chip has the potential to enable multi-gigabit transmit performance with low latency in room-scale VR environments without the line-of-sight requirement associated with traditional high-frequency millimeter wave systems.
There is no question that the industry is moving away from traditional tethered VR HMDs. You could look no further than John Carmack's comments at OC3 paired with Oculus' wireless Rift protoype, but there's plenty more happening. Late last year, we reported on a company called Quark VR that is building a wireless system for the Vive, and we also spent some time with the wireless upgrade kit from TPCAST back in November. DisplayLink is working on wireless HMD technology, and so is KwikVR. We recently spent time with Sixa's wireless Rivvr HMD kit, too. Even MIT is in on the action.
Let us not forget that Intel, one of AMD’s largest rivals, is also experimenting a wireless VR headset system.
Although AMD hasn’t shared its plans for its newly acquired IP, it’s safe to say that it will be interesting to see how the company integrates this technology into future products.