NVIDIA shared some details about a technique it's exploring to enhance the performance of virtual reality games. Called foveated rendering, this technique uses eye tracking to put computing resources to work where they matter most. Basically, the goal is to make VR games run smoother by reducing image quality in the peripheral vision of your eye. When done right, this can improve performance without a noticeable drop in visual quality.
Human vision can be thought of as having two components: foveal and peripheral vision. The small region of your retina called the fovea is densely packed with cones — a type of photoreceptor cell — providing sharp and detailed vision. Peripheral vision covers a much wider field of view but lacks acuity.
This acuity difference has inspired foveated rendering systems, which track the user’s gaze and seek to increase graphics performance by rendering with lower image quality in the periphery. However, foveated rendering taken too far will lead to visible artifacts, such as flicker, blur or a sense of “tunnel vision.”
Our researchers used SMI’s prototype eye-tracking HMD to perform a careful perceptual study of what people actually see in their peripheral vision in VR. Our researchers then used those insights to design a new rendering algorithm that enables much greater foveation, or reduction in rendering effort, without any discernible drop in visual quality.