Valve engineer muses on virtual reality, claims workable solution is a long way off

Virtual Reality

By on January 2, 2013 at 4:55 pm

Latency is the biggest stumbling block when it comes to virtual reality, according to Valve engineer Michael Abrash. The “holy grail” of virtual reality is a 7ms latency, which just isn’t feasible with current technology — not yet, anyway.

“For reference, games generally have latency from mouse movement to screen update of 50 ms or higher (sometimes much higher), although I’ve seen numbers as low as about 30 ms for graphically simple games running with tearing (that is, with vsync off),” says Abrash. “In contrast, I can tell you from personal experience that more than 20 ms is too much for VR and especially AR, but research indicates that 15 ms might be the threshold, or even 7 ms.”

“AR/VR rendering on PCs will have to be roughly on the order of five-year-old games, which have low enough overall performance demands to allow rendering latencies on the order of 3-5 ms (200-333 Hz). Of course, if you want to do general, walk-around AR, you’ll be in the position of needing to do very-low-latency rendering on mobile processors, and then you’ll need to be at the graphics level of perhaps a 2000-era game at best. This is just one of many reasons that I think walk-around AR is a long way off.”

Take a read of the full post over at the official Valve blog.

Source: Kotaku

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15 comments (Leave your own)

make up yah mind Abrash!
you either support the Oculas rift VR set

or you dont?

(watch the vid he’s on there promoting it :) )


make up yah mind Abrash!
you either support the Oculas riftVR set or you dont?

Yeah that was my first thought too. I guess that’s one of the reason the Oculus has relatively low resolution screens, so that frame rate can be as close as possible to 60Hz with any decent mid range graphics card (capable of rendering 1280×800 with all fx cranked). However real-time head tracking latency is another matter.

The Oculus promotes itself specifically as the first “very very low latency” HMD. However the video doesn’t say much more than that about it. Do you know if they have quoted a specific latency spec in milliseconds at any point for the device? (Nothing in their FAQ or elsewhere I could find).



to be honest I didn’t think he or gabe sounded like they were advocating Oculus as “VR has arrived, this thing is IT!” but as a major leap in the right direction and something still worth getting excited about.

reading this article I think he’s more excited about seeing what Oculus 2 or 3 can do ;)


why cant we just invent inseption and have the mind do all the work!


why cant we just invent inseption and have the mind do all the work!

Maybe you are already in the dream.


Maybe this is the Matrix…


2000 era gaming was still pretty good, so I don’t see what the issue is. Anyone that expected a VR solution to work with modern games was seriously kidding themselves anyway.

The technology will get better, but it’ll never get to a point where it’d support bleeding edge gaming.

So long as I can play Deus Ex, System Shock 2, Unreal and UT99 I’d be pretty damn happy with it.


So long as I can play Deus Ex, System Shock 2, Unreal and UT99 I’d be pretty damn happy with it.

I don’t know about UT99, that game was so intense that I used to burn out after a single match, maybe two. But I might be a bit weird as far as visuals go.


Frame rate is not even the biggest issue anyway, VR can never work without a reliable control input that handles movement and that’s not happening… for a long time, and when it does it won’t be a game company that does it, it will be some neuroscience boffins somewhere.

Vr with manual, hand controlled movement is just a fancy television for your face, even that mind controlled stuff they were trying to do a few years back isn’t a good option because it’s still slower to control with than muscle memory from your hands.


Latency rather, not frame rate lol, brb no edit still


Even if its a fancy television, giving the freedom of head movement ingame to the eyes is a big step. The problem I see is with turning 180 degrees as you’ll have cords and stuff getting in the way with early releases of tech like the Oculus Rift.


better than the 90′s!


(YouTube) Related QuakeCon 2012 panel with John Carmack, Michael Abrash and Palmer Luckey (Oculus developer)


Also: more relevant discussions by Carmack in the traditional Carmack Keynote of QuakeCon 2012.


I have an Oculus Rift on the way having backed it. I think it will be the breeding ground for lots of research and development into new VR games and they will bring with them an experience unlike anything you’ve had before regardless of the latency issues.

People talk about a lot of the inherent issues like cables and using controllers for movement but I think they are underestimating the impact having a almost full steroscopic 3d with a high field of view will have on your immersion.

I can’t wait to see what the Indie scene does with it when combined with the Leap Motion.

My prediction is that the Oculus will be popular enough that it will drive the tech industry giants into improving the technology sooner. Give it 2 years and we’ll have 1080p resolution and slickly designed headsets from Samsung and Sony.

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