With the Oculus Rift shipping out to customers next week, you’d think that the Oculus team would be done adding new features to the device. However, just today they have announced a new feature coming to the Rift. The feature has actually been available on the GearVR for some time now, and it’s called Asynchronous Timewarp, or ATW.
Technically, the announcement that they would be implementing ATW came during GDC last week. However, the feature has been officially implemented as of today. So what is Asynchronous Timewarp? In a nutshell, it’s a method for delivering a smooth, judder-free image to your headset, without taxing your computer’s hardware too much.
One of the biggest hurdles with VR has been the ability to deliver consistent framerates, and low-latency images. If you’re moving your head around in VR and there’s a stutter in the image, or it takes too long for the video to catch up to your movements, it can cause a huge disconnect. In some cases, it can make users feel dizzy, or even ill.
The image above can give you a good idea of just how ATW can work. Essentially, you can see that the first frame has rendered before the necessary amount of time to keep up with the VSync deadline. However, the next frame took a tad bit too long. Normally, this would result in a skipped frame, which causes judder. However, you can see that ATW can utilize the previous frame by displaying it again, using the headset’s new orientation. The result is a smooth video output, where the user is unlikely to even notice that there may have been any issues rendering it.
The people that will benefit most from this are the developers working on programs and games for the Oculus Rift. Since ATW will always be running on the Rift, they’ll have that extra support, and the knowledge that their games will run smoothly, even if there are some minor performance issues. If you want to read more about ATW, you can check out the Oculus Developer Blog for more information.