A high-end gaming computer can easily cost thousands of dollars by the time you’ve outfitted it with the latest high-performance components. But you don’t necessarily need an Intel Core i9-9900K processor and NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2080 graphics to play games — there are thousands of games that are perfectly playable on older or less powerful hardware.

Things get a little trickier when you throw virtual reality into the mix.

Even the simplest VR experiences can look pretty lousy if you don’t have a computer capable of delivering high frame rates to your headset.

Now Valve is introducing new technology that could make it a little easier for relatively inexpensive computers to keep up. The company is rolling out a beta of Motion Smoothing for its SteamVR platform.

Once motion smoothing is enabled, SteamVR attempts to figure out if your computer is about to drop frames. If so, it’ll analyze the last two frames, estimate the motion and animation to come up with a new frame and deliver it.

That means that if you have a headset capable of displaying 90 frames per second, you’ll still see 90 frames per second… even if some of them are estimated by SteamVR rather than generated by the game your VR experience you’re running.

Valve says that reduces the amount of processing power used by the application you’re running… and if that’s not good enough for smooth performance, motion smoothing can synthesize up to three frames for every one rendered by the application.

Odds are that games aren’t going to look quite as good when they resort to motion smoothing as they would if all the frames were being rendered by the application you’re running. But it could allow you to run games or apps that wouldn’t otherwise run smoothly on your hardware.

You do still need a computer that meets some minimum requirements to use SteamVR’s new motion smoothing feature. That means you’ll need a Windows 10 PC with NVIDIA graphics.

The technology is also currently compatible with the HTC Vive and Vive Pro VR headsets, but not Oculus Rift or Windows Mixed Reality Headsets.

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4 replies on “SteamVR motion smoothing aims to make VR bearable on cheaper PCs”

  1. Is this helpful more for the CPU tasks or the GPU tasks?

    From a performance per watt perspective, you get the most out of a GTX 1050 Ti and a Core i7-8565U.
    A system like that (laptop/ultrabook) definitely has some serious GPU performance and CPU horsepower… but its definitely a step back compared to a healthy GTX 1070 and i7-7700k. So I wonder what bottleneck/s can be alleviated with this “motion smoothing” solution?

    1. The solution does not care, as far as I know, but generally speaking, VR games are usually GPU-bound.
      I have a friend with i3-2120 and 1060 6Gb and it runs Samsung Odyssey just fine.
      Sure, there are some odd cases (I’ve seen Sairento VR taking 16 ms of CPU time per frame on 3970X occasionally), but mostly it’s GPU and VRAM (less than 3Gb is not going to run some games already).

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