While it's obvious that Nvidia's GPUs will play a big role in the upcoming wave of VR HMDs, the company is also developing its own VR software kit entitled "Gameworks VR." When it was revealed prior to E3, it was still in its alpha stages, but just two months later, it is now entering its beta phase of development.
With the shift in development comes two branches for the new SDK — one for game and app developers, and the other primarily for HMD engineers. The game developer SDK contains a few features that we've been fortunate enough to see in person, such as VR SLI, which allows multiple GPUs to update each eye so that the rendering looks smooth without any notable gaps.
However, the more notable part of the kit is the multi-resolution shading, which splits the image into nine sections, or viewports. The center section is still rendered at 1:1 scale, but the other eight viewports have a different resolution due to the warped image. The result is barely noticeable, even in your peripheral vision, but Nvidia said that its pixel shader is doubled with this technique.
On the HMD side, its dev kits are more focused on giving users the feeling of immersion the moment they put on the headset by way of Direct Mode, so that when you put on any VR headset, you don't see the typical Windows desktop. Instead, the driver will recognize the HMD as different from a traditional monitor, showing only the app and games that are compatible with the headset.
There are two other features that focus on the reduction of latency. Context priority allows developers to customize the GPU scheduling, which supports other features such as asynchronous time warp. This in turn reduces latency and helps adjust images in the digital space as players move their heads around, all without the need of rendering every new frame. Front buffer rendering also decreases latency, but goes about it by allowing the GPU to render directly to the front buffer.
The SDK is free for game developers, and the only thing you have to do is sign up for the Gameworks Registered Developer Program. Headset developers, on the other hand, will need to register through the Gameworks VR developer page. Unlike the game developer kit, this beta SDK requires a non-disclosure agreement before use.