Every new computer screen depends upon a chip to update millions of pixels faster than your eyes can detect the changes — a particular challenge for VR, which requires dual displays. Today, Synaptics is raising the bar for flagship VR headsets by announcing two new components: a VR display driver chip and a cable interface that will collectively let computers drive two separate 2K eye displays at once.

“While virtual reality devices are becoming more common,” said Synaptics’ SVP Huibert Verhoeven, “issues remain with maintaining high-resolution graphics and avoiding motion sickness and the screen door effect. These display and connectivity issues can hinder even the best user experience, which is why Synaptics is focused on tackling these challenges for new generations of HMDs and a superior HMI experience.”

Piece one is the ClearView R63455 display driver IC, a chip specifically made to drive a 2,160 by 2,400 resolution display at 90 frames per second. At that resolution, VR headset makers will be able to achieve display densities of 1,000 pixels per inch, with 2K resolution per eye. That’s a major step up from even the best consumer VR headsets available today, such as the 615 PPI HTC Vive Pro.

Comparison of pixel density between VR headset screens.

Above: Comparison of pixel density between VR headset screens.

Image Credit: Japan Display Inc.

Though Synaptics is providing the chip necessary to update twin 2K screens at VR-ready speeds, immense computing power would generally be necessary to fill those displays with pixel-level detail. For that reason, developers plan to use foveated rendering to provide sharp detail only in the center of the frame, and lower rendering detail elsewhere. So ClearView R63455 includes support for Foveal Transport, a feature designed “to keep images in the eye’s direct line of sight.”

Conceptually, this means that the connected computer will track which part of the screen is currently being viewed by the center of your eye and focus on providing extra pixel detail there. The rest of the screen can be filled with less precisely rendered imagery, a solution Synaptics says “addresses the lower resolution, and possibly more nauseating effects, of viewing content from the peripheral view.”

Synaptics’ second piece, the VXR7200 VR Bridge, is a connectivity solution for tethered USB Type-C cables. It supports full DisplayPort 1.4 bandwidth with AMD or Nvidia GPUs, guaranteeing that greater than 2K displays and faster refresh rates will suffer no image quality loss due to cabling. Until mobile chips mature considerably, cables will be necessary to push all the pixels inside ultra high-resolution displays like this.

Together, the new VR display driver chip and bridge will enable next-generation tethered headsets that provide even more realistic graphics than before; Synaptics says that they’re currently being sampled to developers. It’s likely no coincidence that Sony’s Japan Display announced in May a 1,001 PPI VR display panel with nearly identical resolution specs to the Synaptics chip. Google and LG have been working on and teasing an even higher-resolution 1,443 PPI headset, but with no specific release plans.

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