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Nvidia’s New DLSS Support in VR Could Lower Barriers to Adoption

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Nvidia announced this week that it’s bringing DLSS to eight new games, including three titles specifically supported in VR mode. No Man’s Sky, Wrench, and Into the Radius will now support DLSS in VR. Nvidia predicts significant performance uplifts as a result:

Image by Nvidia

DLSS stands for Deep Learning Super Sampling. It’s an upscaling technique that runs on the Nvidia GPU in real-time, allowing for higher detail levels at faster frame rates. DLSS 1.0 was rough in some titles, but DLSS 2.0 has been much better received. That’s particularly important for VR because it’s clear the headset manufacturers aren’t going to help much by lowering prices.

When the Oculus Rift debuted at $600, it wasn’t unusual to see them paired with a $500 – $600 GPU, though Oculus supported much cheaper cards. If we assume enthusiasts willing to drop $600 on VR were willing to also spend, say, $450 on a GPU to power it, this suggests early VR adopters were willing to spend $1,000 to $1,200 at the top end for GPU + headset. We know, of course, that some people were willing to spend more, given Valve’s brisk Index sales.

Nvidia’s DLSS data shows the RTX 3060 stepping from 41.6 to 71.4fps. The first Oculus Quest had a 72fps refresh rate and it’s probably about as low as you’d want to go for smooth gaming. Without DLSS, only the RTX 3080 supports >72fps play. Dropping the resolution would improve performance, but VR games are subject to a screen door effect already because the screens sit so close to your eyes.

The problem is, VR headset costs are going up for everyone who doesn’t want to be part of Facebook. The Index costs $1,000 and the recently announced Vive Pro 2 is $1,400. There’s not enough savings to locate on the GPU side of the equation to deal with price increases that significant, but the RTX 3060 Ti’s launch price, at least in theory, was $329, versus the RTX 3080, at $699.

The more games can take advantage of DLSS to hit target resolutions, the better they’ll run on lower-end hardware, and the cheaper the overall cost of VR buy-in may be. It may be a lost cause at this point, given that highly popular devices like the Oculus Quest 2 focus on an untethered experience, but every bit helps, or at least it would. All of this remains academic because GPUs remain out of stock and vastly overpriced for now. Hopefully, the new restricted mining cards will help fix this problem.

The next big consumer-centric boost for VR may be Sony’s updated PlayStation 5 PSVR. We don’t have a launch date for it, beyond “not 2021,” but 2022 is rumored. If cheaper PC options don’t appear, we may wind up with a situation where the PS5 + PSVR is roughly the same price as just a non-Quest PC headset. Hopefully not.

In addition to the three VR games mentioned above, DLSS support is coming to Amid Evil, Aron’s Adventure, Everspace 2, Redout: Space Assault, and Scavengers.

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