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AMD reveals 'fastest gaming card in the world,' new AR/VR headset

AMD dives headfirst into the VR future

Samit Sarkar (he/him) is Polygon’s deputy managing editor. He has more than 15 years of experience covering video games, movies, television, and technology.

AMD is looking to lead the VR market with a suite of new graphics technologies and tools, all of which are meant to make it easier for people to create and consume VR content, the company announced today during its Capsaicin event at the 2016 Game Developers Conference.

Leading AMD's plans for VR is its new Radeon Pro Duo graphics card, which — with 16 teraflops of computing performance — the company claims is the "fastest gaming card in the world." So named because of its dual GPUs, the Radeon Pro Duo is aimed squarely at developers of VR content; it features "application optimizations to enhance workflow performance" in software such as Adobe Premiere, according to AMD.

AMD plans to release the Radeon Pro Duo early in the second quarter of 2016, with a suggested retail price of $1,499. For reference, the single-GPU GTX Titan X — Nvidia's current top-of-the-line card — retails for $999.

The Radeon Pro Duo is designed to work with AMD's LiquidVR software development kit. LiquidVR is built for "simplifying and optimizing VR content creation," and helps developers achieve immersion and a sense of presence in their VR apps and games by delivering low-latency rendering, according to AMD. In order to achieve this across graphics cards, headsets and other hardware, AMD is working with technology and ecosystem partners such as Oculus VR and HTC; both the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive will support LiquidVR when they launch this spring.

Like Nvidia, AMD is certifying computers and graphics cards as supporting VR hardware with its "Radeon VR Ready Premium" label. The following AMD Radeon GPUs will all work with the Rift and the Vive: the R9 290 series, R9 295X2, R9 390 series, R9 Nano and R9 Fury series.

Computers that qualify for the Radeon VR Ready Premium initiative include HP's Envy Phoenix line. In addition to the VR Ready Premium label, AMD is marking a separate class of hardware as "Radeon VR Ready Creator" products. The Radeon Pro Duo card kicks off this line of devices that are designed for VR developers. It is also the graphics standard for Crytek's VR First initiative, which seeks to empower young developers by bringing VR labs to colleges and universities around the globe. The first such lab, at Bahçeşehir University in Istanbul, opened in January.

AMD Radeon Pro Duo card 768

Much of the VR world is focused on video games, but AMD is also collaborating with developers on nongaming uses for the technology. AMD is working with companies in fields such as health care, media and education, with applications including virtual reality journalism in partnership with the Associated Press.

AMD is also helping to develop a VR headset. The company is working with Toronto-based Sulon Technologies on the Sulon Q, a self-contained wireless headset that supports virtual reality, augmented reality and spatial computing. The Sulon Q "can deliver console-quality graphics and the ability to transition from the real world to a virtual world seamlessly," according to AMD.

The Sulon Q is powered by AMD's FX-8800P processor and a Radeon R7 GPU, and its Sulon spatial processing unit handles "real-time environment mapping and tracking from the inside outward, dynamic virtualization for VR/AR fusion, and gesture recognition," according to Sulon. The headset features a 2560x1440 OLED screen running at 90 Hz and includes a 256 GB SSD, 8 GB of RAM and Windows 10. It also features dual noise-canceling microphones for voice communication, and offers 3D audio with GenAudio's AstoundSound technology. Sulon Technologies plans to release the Sulon Q in "late spring," and has not yet announced pricing.

Finally, AMD gave the Capsaicin audience a glimpse of the future with a demo of its next-generation Polaris 10 GPU. The company showed off Polaris 10 with Valve's Aperture Science Robot Repair demo running on an HTC Vive headset. Polaris 10 is built with a 14-nanometer manufacturing process and is optimized for DirectX 12 and VR applications. The technology offers advances such as AMD's fourth-generation Graphics Core Next architecture, support for HDR monitors and "industry-leading performance-per-watt," according to AMD.

For more on the Sulon Q, check out the video below.

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