Valve launches 'Motion Smoothing' for SteamVR, allowing low-end machines to get higher framerates

Virtual reality may eventually be the future of gaming, but it still has a lot of hurdles to overcome before that happens. For high-end desktop VR systems, one of those hurdles is demanding system requirements.

To get the ideal HTC Vive experience, for example, players will need some pretty beefy hardware – an Intel i5-4590 and a Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 or better are ideal, according to Vive’s official website. The price of this hardware, in addition to the cost of an HTC Vive itself, has put high-quality VR gaming well out of reach for many consumers.

Fortunately, Steam has implemented a new tool into SteamVR that could improve the situation substantially.

On Wednesday, Valve’s Alex Vlachos published a blog post describing a feature it calls “Motion Smoothing.” In short, Motion Smoothing aims to drastically improve VR game framerates on low-end systems by “interpolating” between two existing frames to create a new in-between frame.

Vlachos claims this “smooths out” and increases framerates; similar to what you might see in flatscreen TVs. The trouble is, TV-based Motion Smoothing can also add a not-insignificant amount of latency.

Valve launches 'Motion Smoothing' for SteamVR, allowing low-end machines to get higher framerates 1

According to Valve, SteamVR’s version of Motion Smoothing doesn’t suffer from the same problems. “When SteamVR sees that an application isn’t going to make framerate (i.e. start dropping frames), Motion Smoothing kicks in,” Vlachos writes. “It looks at the last two delivered frames, estimates motion and animation, and extrapolates a new frame. Synthesizing new frames keeps the current application at full framerate, advances motion forward, and avoids judder.”

Valve says this feature can improve performance for low and high-end machines alike, allowing far more users to enjoy full, 90Hz VR gameplay on the Vive or Vive Pro.

It should be noted that Motion Smoothing is still in beta right now, and it’ll certainly be prone to its fair share of issues. Still, if you want to take a walk on the wild side, accessing the tool is easy – just go to your Steam library’s “Tools” section, right click on SteamVR, select the Beta menu, and opt-in.

Image courtesy Nordic Hardware

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