Only 1pc of world’s PCs will be capable of handling VR in 2016

4 Jan 2016

VR is set to be the star of the show at CES 2016, but few computers in the world will have the graphics capabilities to deliver smooth experiences when the first PC headsets arrive this year

Just 13m PCs will have the graphics capabilities to run virtual reality (VR) applications smoothly when the first VR headsets for PCs appear in 2016, according to hardware maker Nvidia.

2016 is set to be a pivotal breakthrough year for VR, heralding a new era of immersive experiences and a new industry for software creators and headset makers.

Facebook is due to launch its first Oculus headset in the first quarter of 2016, albeit potentially without a hand controller at first.

Other makers – like Samsung with its Gear headset, HTC with its Vive headset and Sony with its PlayStation VR headset – are also likely to enter the fray in 2016. And don’t forget, Microsoft has done an expert job in setting the stage for its Windows 10-based HoloLens experience.

Only 13m PCs will be able to handle VR in 2016

Alas, when the first PC-based VR headsets debut later this year, there won’t be enough PCs in the world with the graphics capabilities to run the more intense, hyper-realistic VR experiences and applications being created.

According to Gartner, these PCs will need the right computer graphics chips to deliver authentic experiences.

However, less than 1pc of the 1.43bn PCs expected to be in use globally in 2016 have these capabilities.

VR is no doubt set to be the star of the show at CES 2016, alongside futuristic cars, robots, artificial intelligence and the automated home.

TrendForce estimates that VR headset shipments will jump to 14m in 2016 and 38m by 2020.

The general manager of Nvidia’s Shield gaming and VR business, Jason Paul, recently told VentureBeat that PCs may not be powerful enough today to yield the smooth experience that VR promises.

“We see the potential of VR as very large, but we also see a big challenge as far as the computing power that’s required,” Paul said.

“If you look at your typical PC gaming experience, 90pc of the gamers out there play at 1080p. For a smooth experience, you don’t want to go below 30fps. Compare that to VR, where the displays are about 2K, but you have to render closer to 3K, and you don’t want to go below 90fps.

“It’s about a sevenfold increase in raw performance to render for VR versus traditional PC gaming. You have to do that in less than 20 milliseconds from head rotation to what shows up on your display.”

Virtual reality image via Shutterstock

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years