Microsoft's new DirectSR super resolution API aims to simplify DLSS, FSR, and XeSS implementation

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In the leadup to GDC 2024 happening in March, Microsoft has given more details on its upcoming DirectSR upscaling technology, and says it will make the implementation of major vendor's upscalers much easier. More info on DirectSR will come at GDC 2024 in a joint presentation between Microsoft, AMD, and Nvidia, and a public preview of the API will arrive "soon."

The fact that AMD, Nvidia, and Intel all have their own upscaling tech complicates things for game developers. For instance, Starfield initially launched with just FSR 2 in September 2023, got DLSS support two months later (in November), and XeSS support only just arrived (in February 2024). Whether this staggered implementation was down to technical complexity or because AMD blocked DLSS's immediate implementation (which AMD denies), it's a sign that managing three different upscalers presents challenges for developers.

The three upscaling solutions aren't all that different in respect to what data they use to create upscaled visuals, hence the introduction of DirectSR. Microsoft is light on the details and doesn't outline exactly what DirectSR does, but briefly stated in a blog post that it "enables multi-vendor SR through a common set of inputs and outputs, allowing a single code path to activate a variety of solutions" such as DLSS, FSR, and XeSS.

All-in-all, it sounds very similar to what Nvidia promised with its Streamline framework. Nvidia Streamline is an open-source method for enabling simple implementations of DLSS, XeSS, and potentially also FSR, though AMD never joined the project. It's not clear if Streamline is dead because of DirectSR; the technology made its way into Unreal Engine 5.2 in 2023, but that's the last time we really ever heard about it. Certainly, having Microsoft in charge of the API should be more acceptable to Nvidia's competitors — we reached out to Nvidia and asked if DirectSR builds on Streamline in any way but have not received a response.

In some ways it would perhaps be for the best if DirectSR effectively replaces Streamline, but that would mean the technology would be limited to Windows by extension. Streamline by contrast is also compatible with Vulkan, which is still an underdog in gaming APIs, but it's still used in many games because of its great cross-platform compatibility. Of course, just as Proton allows Windows games to run on Linux and the Steam Deck, it could probably be expanded to support DirectSR in the future.

DirectSR will get its full debut at GDC 2024 on March 21, where we will undoubtedly learn more about it. Intel won't be attending the presentation, but since Microsoft explicitly says XeSS will benefit from DirectSR, we expect that Intel probably had some input on the new API or is at least open to using it — one of Intel's reps talked with us at CES about supporting Streamline, and this would by extension fall under the same umbrella.

Matthew Connatser

Matthew Connatser is a freelancing writer for Tom's Hardware US. He writes articles about CPUs, GPUs, SSDs, and computers in general.

  • bit_user
    "enables multi-vendor SR through a common set of inputs and outputs, allowing a single code path to activate a variety of solutions" such as DLSS, FSR, and XeSS.
    That sounds exactly like what I hoped they would do!
  • Bluoper
    As much as im not a huge fan of relying on upscaling in certain games, if it keeps getting better and is more accessible my opinion on that might change.