Nvidia revealed the first two consumer GPUs derived from its Pascal architecture last week, the GTX 1070 and GTX 1080. The company also announced some additions to the VRWorks suite of developer tools and a VR experience that shows them off.
Nvidia’s two upcoming 10-series GeForce cards were designed for the most demanding graphics workloads. Nvidia claimed that the GTX 1070 and 1080 will both outperform a Titan X. The extra performance allowed Nvidia to add a few advanced features that should make VR games much more realistic.
Nvidia graphics cards have had the ability to calculate PhysX simulated physics in games for a long time, but the feature has not been available to VR games. Nvidia’s Pascal GPUs will bring support for PhysX to VRWorks, allowing game objects and environments to have realistic physical behavior. PhysX support allows for realistic collision detection, which Nvidia said can enhance haptic feedback responses and aid in audio processing.
Having realistic physically simulated environments also enables more realistic virtual sounds. In the real world, sound travels as a wave that is manipulated by the physical environment. If you’re in a small room, sound will bounce back off the walls, making it feel like a small space. Objects in the room will also have an effect on the way things sound. For example, an empty room sounds very different than the same room filled with furniture or heavy carpet. Outdoor environments also sound very different than indoor environments. We’ve talked about the importance of sound in VR before. Many experts in the field believe sound makes up more than half of the immersive experience, and without properly mapped audio, you’re not getting the full effect of immersion.
By contrast, audio in games is directional. It has an origin point and a destination point, but it is not affected by the environment like a sound wave is. Nvidia introduced VRWorks Audio, which leverages the power of Pascal GPU’s to process audio based on the physical environment. Nvidia CEO Jen-Hsun Huang explained that VRWorks Audio allows the GPU to calculate physically-based audio in real time. VRWorks Audio allows the Optics engine, which is used for ray tracing technology, to calculate audio signatures in the same way it calculates light signatures. The result should be much more realistic environmental sound.
Nvidia said it will be releasing a game called VR Funhouse to help demonstrate these technologies and other VRWorks features, such as Nvidia Flow, Hairworks, Flex, and VR SLI. The VR Funhouse will consist of ten different mini-games, including a basketball-throwing game, a game where you get shot from a cannon, and another where you shoot flaming arrows at targets and set them ablaze. Each demo is engineered to highlight the different feature of VRworks. For example, the Crown Creeper game leverages VRWorks Audio. You’ll have to use your ears to navigate through this game.
Nvidia said that it plans to make VR Funhouse open source so that developers can learn from it as they create their own experience with VRWorks features.
Nvidia has not yet revealed the release date for VR Funhouse. The game requires a Pascal GPU to show off all the features, so it makes sense that the game isn’t out yet. Nvidia said more information about the release will come soon, but if we had to guess, we’d say it will likely launch with the GTX 1080 at the end of the month.