Microsoft Research wants to bring high-quality, mobile VR to all of our devices

Microsoft’s work with the HoloLens and mixed reality is well known and often publicized, but the company’s focus on improving virtual reality experiences is less so. For years, its engineers and researchers have been developing different approaches to bring virtual reality to even the least-powerful mobile devices. And the team has done it again.

In a technical paper called “Proxy-guided Image-based Rendering for Mobile Devices”, Microsoft Research engineers have managed to create a system that allows low-end devices, like a smartphone or a PC-on-a-stick, to display high-quality VR scenes.

As the researchers explain, the main problem with VR systems is that they either rely on very powerful, resource-intensive hardware, like the Oculus Rift or HTC Vive, which keep you tethered; or they allow you to be mobile but offer much lower quality visuals, like the HoloLens or Gear VR.

But the research team’s implementation does away with some of those problems, and brings high-quality VR environments, running at 50 frames per second even to very low-power devices. The team achieved this impressive result by offloading the frame rendering to a server and then streaming the result back to the user’s display. However, the really important part is that the algorithm used can hide the high-latency response from the server, which is often the biggest problem with such implementations.

As you can see in the video above, the end-result looks smooth and its quality is acceptable, at least for a video game.

We’ve seen similar efforts from Microsoft Research before, with substantial efforts being made to bring high-quality virtual reality to low-end devices. Projects like Outatime, Kahawai, Irides and Flashback all tackle different problems with VR and promise to bring the revolutionary tech to all of our devices at some point in the future.

Check out the full paper and additional materials here.

Thanks to Eduardo Cuervo on the Microsoft Research team!

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