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AMD betting on extra-fast Wi-Fi to open up virtual reality

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Semiconductor maker Advanced Micro Devices Inc is betting that a purchase of a Texas-based chipmaker will help drive the adoption of more portable virtual reality headsets.

LONDON] Semiconductor maker Advanced Micro Devices Inc is betting that a purchase of a Texas-based chipmaker will help drive the adoption of more portable virtual reality headsets.

AMD, which is headquartered in Sunnyvale, California, announced its purchase of Nitero for an undisclosed price on Monday. Nitero has developed a 60 gigahertz wireless chip that it says can transmit high-resolution video without any delays or lags.

Roy Taylor, AMD's vice president of alliances, told the Virtual Reality World Congress, an industry conference in Bristol, England, on Wednesday that virtual reality's growth has been held back by VR headsets' need to be tethered to a personal computer or gaming device with a thick cord.

Mr Taylor rebutted the idea that lower-than-projected sales of headsets, like Facebook Inc's Occulus or HTC Corp's Vive, mean that virtual reality is overhyped and would not become a mainstream technology. Such criticism, he said, was like Time magazine saying in 1994 that the internet would never amount to anything.

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AMD has bet heavily that the growth of virtual reality and augmented reality will lead to higher demand for the high-end graphics processing units and central processing units it sells. To help promote these technologies, the company has helped sponsor virtual reality films, games and stand-alone experiences.

Mr Taylor cited estimates that say by 2020 there will be 23 million room-based virtual reality headsets in users' hands and 122 million mobile-based virtual reality headsets, such as Google's Daydream, purchased.

While Mr Taylor said that the high video frame rates required to produce virtual reality that is comfortable for people to watch, without becoming nauseous, posed a challenge for filmmakers and game designers who wished to create virtual reality content, chipmakers will soon overcome this technical hurdle.

"The competition between us at AMD and Nvdia and Infineon is fierce and we are going to produce better and better GPUs and CPUs," he said. "Don't think about rendering today, think what rendering will be like in one to three years from now when you bring your content to market." He said that AMD sees location-based virtual reality experiences, where people go and pay to view VR content outside of their homes and which are often located in places like shopping malls, are also going to be a key business model for virtual reality and will help spread the technology. AMD has partnered with a number of these virtual reality experience venues in both the US, Europe and Asia.

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