Microsoft FlashBack makes VR more accessible for low-end smartphones and computers

By | 6th June 2016


VR headsets and content continue to improve, but it’s not really a technology everyone can improve to its full capacity just yet. Real VR players like the HTC Vive and the Oculus Rift are expensive, as well dependent on expensive computers. There are more affordable alternatives like Google Cardboard, but the experience is less impressive, and they still require pretty powerful smartphones, which can be expensive.

The true proliferation of VR headsets will only be achieved if the technology can become more accessible, which is exactly what Microsoft wants to accomplish with FlashBack. This virtual reality technology is meant to enable high-quality VR for low-powered devices. This new algorithm is said to improve frame rates by 8 times, consume 97 times less energy, and reduce latency by 15 times.

In essence, what FlashBack does is negate the need to put a heavy load on the GPU by pre-loading (or caching) the virtual environment before-hand. This means there won’t be a need for a powerful GPU, as very little would be loaded in real time. It would be somewhat similar to watching a pre-loaded 360-degree video online.

This system has the ability to compress data and store it in the GPU VRAM, RAM or SSD. The GPU’s main job would only be to decompress this data when it is likely to be utilized. The only thing to worry about would be the need to pre-load all the data into the phone, which could take a while.

Microsoft shows the new tech working on an affordable HP Pavilion Mini and an Oculus Rift. For now there seems to be issues with displaying many objects simultaneously, but this is still a prototype. We should see more improvements coming soon. It is definitely something to look into, especially if the difference in quality is minimal. Those improvements look very enticing.

We will definitely keep an eye on it and report back whenever we hear anything.