AMD betting big on Wi-Fi to open up VR
Semiconductor maker Advanced Micro Devices is betting that a purchase of a Texas-based chip maker will help drive the adoption of more portable virtual reality headsets. By Jeremy Kahn.
Semiconductor maker Advanced Micro Devices (AMD) is betting that a purchase of a Texas-based chip maker will help drive the adoption of more portable virtual reality headsets.
AMD announced its purchase of Nitero for an undisclosed price on Monday. Nitero has developed a 60GHz wireless chip that it says can transmit high-resolution video without any delays or lags.
Roy Taylor, AMD’s vice president of alliances, said on Wednesday at an industry conference in Bristol, England, that virtual reality’s growth has been held back by VR headsets’ need to be tethered to a PC or gaming device with a thick cord.
The Nitero acquisition gives AMD the ability to offer an end-to-end solution for virtual reality and augmented reality, encompassing everything from the computerised brains that process the video, layer it with other digital content, control memory storage and now enable that video to be transmitted wirelessly, Taylor said in an interview.
Pat Kelly, Nitero’s CEO, said that his company — originally spun out of an Australian government-sponsored research centre — was targeting the next generation of VR headgear makers. He wouldn’t say when these new types of headsets might come to market.
Taylor rebutted the idea that lower-than-projected sales of headsets, like Facebook’s Oculus or HTC’s Vive, mean that VR is overhyped and wouldn’t become a mainstream technology. Such criticism, he said, was like Time magazine saying in 1994 that the Internet would never amount to anything.
He noted that in many fields — such as architecture and medicine — adoption of VR and augmented reality was advancing far faster than analysts had predicted.
AMD, which is headquartered in Sunnyvale, California, expects that the growth of VR and augmented reality will lead to higher demand for the company’s high-end graphics processing units and CPUs. To promote these technologies, AMD has helped sponsor VR films, games and standalone experiences.
“Anything that is good for VR is good for AMD,” Taylor said.
He cited estimates that 23m room-based VR headsets will be in users’ hands by 2020 and consumers will purchase 122m mobile-based VR headsets, such as Google’s Daydream.
Taylor said the high video framerates required to produce VR that people can watch without feeling sick pose a challenge for filmmakers and game designers. Chip makers will soon overcome this technical hurdle, he said, citing Nitero’s super-fast Wi-Fi as one example.
“The competition between us at AMD and Nvidia and Intel is fierce and we are going to produce better and better GPUs and CPUs,” he said. “Don’t think about rendering today, think what rendering will be like in one to three years from now.”
AMD sees location-based VR experiences, where people pay to view VR content in places like shopping malls, are also going to be a key business model and will help spread the technology. AMD has partnered with a number of these venues in the US, Europe and Asia, Taylor said. — (c) 2017 Bloomberg LP