Oculus Rift headset will run almost exclusively on Windows PCs, which should have enough horespower to cope with the demanding VR graphics. The process that most laptops use to output video doesn't work with the Rift, and Oculus has temporarily halted development for hardware running Apple and Linux.
Oculus said that the Rift will have a recommended specification to ensure that developers can optimize for a known hardware configuration, which ensures a better player experience of comfortable sustained presence. The recommended PC specification is an NVIDIA GTX 970 or AMD 290, Intel i5-4590, and 8GB RAM. This configuration will be held for the lifetime of the Rift and should drop in price over time.
That system’s specification is largely driven by the requirements of VR graphics. Good stereo VR with positional tracking directly drives your perceptual system in a way that a flat monitor can’t. As a consequence, rendering techniques and quality matter more than ever before, as things that are imperceivable on a traditional monitor suddenly make all the difference when experienced in VR. Therefore, VR increases the value of GPU performance.
At the same time, there are three key VR graphics challenges to note: raw rendering costs, real-time performance, and latency.
A traditional 1080p game at 60Hz requires 124 million shaded pixels per second. In contrast, the Rift runs at 2160×1200 at 90Hz split over dual displays, consuming 233 million pixels per second. At the default eye-target scale, the Rift’s rendering requirements go much higher: around 400 million shaded pixels per second. This means that by raw rendering costs alone, a VR game will require approximately 3x the GPU power of 1080p rendering.
Traditionally, PC 3D graphics has had soft real-time requirements, where maintaining 30-60 FPS has been adequate. VR turns graphics into more of a hard real-time problem, as each missed frame is visible. Continuously missing framerate is a jarring, uncomfortable experience. As a result, GPU headroom becomes critical in absorbing unexpected system or content performance potholes.
Taking all of this into account, the recommended hardware specification is designed to help developers tackle these challenges and ship content to all Rift users. This is the hardware that we recommend for the full Rift experience:
- NVIDIA GTX 970 / AMD 290 equivalent or greater
- Intel i5-4590 equivalent or greater
- 8GB+ RAM
Apart from the recommended spec, the Rift will require:
- Windows 7 SP1 or newer
- 2x USB 3.0 ports
- HDMI 1.3 video output supporting a 297MHz clock via a direct output architecture
Many discrete GPU laptops have their external video output connected to the integrated GPU and drive the external output via hardware and software mechanisms that can’t support the Rift. Note that almost no current laptops have the GPU performance for the recommended spec, though upcoming mobile GPUs may be able to support this level of performance.
Also on Friday, Oculus released a beta SDK (software development kit) for developing Rift applications on PCs.
Last week, Oculus revealed that the Rift will go on sale in the first quarter of 2016, but did not specify pricing.