AMD today announced a partnership with a relatively unknown VR start-up called Sulon. These guys are making a competitor to Microsoft’s HoloLens called the Sulon Q, but they’re scaling things up somewhat. It’s billed as the world’s first fully untethered, fully 3D, fully accelerated VR headset that is also spatially aware of your surroundings without having to set up equipment in your room, or basically dedicate a small section of your house for VR gaming. It features an AMD APU inside, and is basically an entire system built into the headset. The only thing it really needs is a plug to charge it when the batteries are drained.
The Sulon Q is set for a 2016 release and looks really, really sweet. It features a quad-core AMD FX-8800P APU set to a 35W profile, along with 512 GCN 1.2 stream processors. There’s a total of 8GB of DDR3 memory on-board, 256GB of SSD storage (probably M.2, so probably also upgradeable), a 2560 x 1440 OLED display with a refresh rate of 90Hz and a 110-degree field of view, 3.5mm jacks for your headset, 802.11ac Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.1, two USB 3.0 ports and micro-HDMI out for connecting to an external display. A Bluetooth keyboard and mouse will come in the box. Windows 10 64-bit comes pre-installed.
For tracking, Sulon has a rather interesting solution using a combination accelerometer, gyroscope, magnetometer and a dedicated spatial processing unit, that all together allow the headset to work out its position in real-time, and give you an accurate bearing on your position in the 3D world. Lenses on the sides of the device hold cameras that allow the unit to measure the distance between your head and close objects. This tech doesn’t work on its own, though, requiring Windows 10 to be installed on the device. There’s a particular application that’s required as well, made by Microsoft and AMD, codenamed “Project Dragon” for the interim. It is quite possible that Project Dragon is a fork of the Universal Windows App platform, giving developers a stable solution on which to model their applications and enjoy smooth and responsive tracking for VR and AR applications.
“AMD continues to be a driving force in virtual reality,” said Raja Koduri, senior vice president and chief architect,Radeon Technologies Group, AMD. “We’re bringing the technology to more people around the world through our efforts to expand the VR ecosystem with VR i-Cafés in China, new Oculus Rift and HTC Vive headsets, and a wide variety of content partners in gaming, entertainment, education, science, medicine, journalism and several other exciting fields.”
I had a quick look at the PR stuff in the press kit available on Sulon’s website, and the kinds of things they want the Sulon Q to be capable of are ambitious, but reachable. Because it’s a standalone headset, the comparisons with Microsoft HoloLens are apt, if a little silly because HoloLens is nowhere near this unit’s graphics capability. Sulon advertises “console-class” graphics, but they’re not targeting consumers entirely, rather looking into what they can offer to “prosumers” and businesses that do a lot of design, prototyping, and 3D modeling, which is where such a headset would be really useful.
Sulon expects the Sulon Q to be available for purchase in Q2 2016, but the launch date and the price, which was not announced, will probably change to suit the company’s position in terms of securing parts. The OLED display is definitely Samsung-made, so Sulon will be competing against Oculus for display stock, as well as Samsung itself for displays that they put into their own phones.
I can’t wait to see a hands-on test of this unit. AMD will be hosting a live stream at GDC 2016 tonight, and will probably show off the Sulon as part of their VR announcements. Stay tuned!
More reading: Sulon Q press release