Monthly Archives: March 2016

AMD’s ‘Greenland’ GPU Will Likely Contain 4096 Shader Cores, Indicated By LinkedIn Profile

The LinkedIn Profile of a R&D Manager at AMD indicates that ‘Greenland’, the codename for one of the high end 14 NM GPUs being produced by AMD, will contain 4096 shader cores. This puts it at the same number of cores as the Fury X. This does not mean that performance will be identical though, as the cores themselves may be heavily redesigned, and other optimizations may be made. With increased power efficiency coming from a node shrink, it’s possible that it could run at higher clock rates than the Fury X, or possibly run without requiring liquid cooling.
Described as a “full capacity of 4096 shader processor”, this indicates that there may be multiple versions of the card through a process called binning. For example, there is the “Fury X” with 4096 shader cores, and a “Fury” with only 3584 shader cores enabled. Both run on the same architecture(both technically contain 4096 cores), but the Fury has a certain amount of cores disabled, either because its a less efficient chip that doesn’t meet the ASIC quality requirements for the Fury X(but still meets the requirements to be a Fury), or because it has a few defective cores, which just get disabled.

greenlandlinkedin

Screenshot of LinkedIn Profile

Source: https://www.linkedin.com/in/zhengyu

AMD’s Polaris 10 GPU May Contain 2304 Shader cores and 8 GB of GDDR5 VRAM with a 256 bit Memory bus


User “iLeakStuff” on the Overclock3D forums has compiled information that indicates that AMD’s Polaris 10 GPU will contain 2304 shader cores, and 8 GB of GDDR5 memory. He did so by matching the PCI ID’s of the Polaris 10 GPUs(provided in a recent Linux kernel submission) to a benchmark run of a card with a matching ID on the benchmark rankings of sisoftware.net.

benchleak

67DF is a PCI ID for a Polaris 10-based GPU, as revealed by a recent patch to the Linux Kernel.

The full benchmark for the Polaris 10 based GPU can be found here

The card in the benchmarks is detailed as having the core clocks run at 800 mhz, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that the finished card for consumers will run at that clock rate. Engineering samples are often clocked lower for testing and stability purposes. In addition, manufacturers often factory overclock their cards before shipping them if their cooling solution is capable of handling it. It’s also important to consider that there can be multiple differently binned variants of the Polaris 10 architecture, so other GPUs might have more or less cores activated.

 

Original source

Why Displayport 1.4’s Compression Codec Can’t Be Truly 100% Visually Lossless

VESA has claimed that Displayport 1.4 will be capable of 8K 60 hz HDR video, by using video transport compression. Without compression, DP 1.4 is only capable of 4K 120 HZ SDR, or 5K 60 hz SDR, due to its limited throughput. By utilizing compression, higher resolution video can be achieved by reducing the amount of information needed to be sent.

 

Understanding How Lossy and Lossless Video Compression Work

Note: This is a highly simplified explanation of compression. There is more to compression than the details provided.

In computing, compression is the act of taking data, and reducing its file size. There are two types of compression methods. The first is lossy, which means the quality is reduced in order to achieve the reduced file size, and the second is lossless, which reduces the file size, without compromising the quality of the content. Nearly all video content consumed today through streaming services or downloads uses lossy compression. Sending video that is encoded using a lossless codec across the internet in real time is simply infeasible with today’s infrastructure.

Compression works by recognizing redundancy in information, and rewriting it in a way that takes up less space:

For example, take this string of information:

 

“aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaab”

This contains 20 a’s, followed by a b. This can be rewritten as:

a[20]b

Which would take substantially less storage space. Lossless video compression will do something similar, for example recognizing portions of the screen that are the exact same color in subsequent frames, or portions of a frame that are the same color, and can be represented as a field of one color. Lossless codecs will only make changes that do not compromise quality, by rewriting completely redundant information.

In “lossy” compression, generally a target bitrate is set, and each second of video contains that amount of information. Unlike lossless compression, lossy compression looks for semi-redundant/similar information, and reduces the accuracy/blends it. For example, if a leaf in an image of a tree is multiple shades of green in different pixels, it will set certain portions of the leaf to be one color of green, and label it as redundant information. This is why video viewed on streaming services such as Youtube can seem “blocky” at times. In particularly static situations where the camera doesn’t move much, the codec will realize that information between frames are redundant, and set a pixel range for several frames. This is why videos of games being played seem to drop in quality when the player turns the camera around rapidly, and look very “blocky”. When turning the camera, groups of pixels are transitioning very quickly, and therefore are not very redundant between frames. For this reason, the codec has to compromise to maintain the target bitrate, and the quality feels lower.

The higher the bitrate, the higher the quality. With a higher bitrate, the codec can make less compromises about quality; therefore, you get a sharper image.

Without lossy compression, digital video content as we know it wouldn’t be possible. Streaming services such as Netflix would not be able to output the insane amount of bandwidth needed to deliver truly lossless video. DVD’s would not be able to hold movies. Mobile phones wouldn’t have the storage space needed to store more than a few minutes of video. Lossy compression is a necessary evil for the storage and delivery of video content.

 

Is Displayport 1.4’s Compression Actually Lossless?

The compression is described by VESA as “visually lossless”. This implies that some information is lost, but it isn’t information that is easily perceivable by viewers. However, as described by the theory above, it isn’t always 100% possible to deliver lossless compression when you’re limited in throughput.

Since the images sent to a monitor need to be sent in real time, DP 1.4 cannot use keyframe compression to reduce the amount of bandwidth needed to delay a frame, without causing a massive amount of input lag, as it would be infeasible for anything except video playback. Hypothetically the monitor could store past frames and the video card could send the delta changes from the previous frame, but this would require a lot of RAM usage on both the GPU and the monitor, which would also make it borderline infeasible. Therefore, it is reasonable to expect that DP 1.4 will compress frames on an independent basis.

So is Displayport 1.4 actually lossless? It depends heavily on how redundant the video content is. For example, in a video in which each pixel is substantially different from each adjacent pixel, and the image is completely different each frame, lossless compression would have very little, if any, effect on its file size. Of course, a video such as that isn’t a “real world” example.

So here’s a real world example. A 2d, animated cartoon generally has a lot of redundant colors. Whole areas of graphics used in its creation are often the exact same color, which can easily be compressed with little to no loss. A video of the real world, on the other hand, generally results in slightly varying colors of every pixel. What really matters is how much the colors in each frame contrast each other and vary in significance. The less “semi-redundant” the colors in an image are, the more noticeable the compression will be.

The user is unlikely to notice if a small group of pixels with a RGB value ranging from [10,200,10] to [10,203,10] is rewritten as [10,201,10] for the purposes of reducing file size, as it would only slightly effect the shade of green within the area. It is still visually lossy, but it is so difficult to perceive that most users wouldn’t notice the difference.

Conclusion

Considering the amount of bandwidth Displayport 1.4 allows for, the compression will probably hardly be noticable in most cases. Compression in low-bitrate streams can be unbearable, but Displayport 1.4 can deliver so much more information per second than the usual bitrate of most video content. We’ll have to wait and see to truly tell, but it’s likely that the compression used by Displayport 1.4 will be barely noticable, but ultimately vary depending on the type of video content being viewed.

This Sounds Familiar

We’ve seen similar debates about compression before, when discussing audio codecs. People will argue relentlessly about if you can tell the difference between MP3 and FLAC. Some will claim that FLAC makes a huge difference because its lossless, others claim the difference is unnoticeable. This sounds like a very similar situation.

Could the need for decompression cause input lag?

If the video is being compressed before it is sent through the cable, that means the monitor needs to process the data in real time, and convert it into raw values, in order to display the image. This process could take some time, which raises questions about if 8K monitors using displayport 1.4 will be feasible for gaming purposes, even if graphics cards became powerful enough to do so. There’s no way to tell until we begin to see monitors utilizing Displayport 1.4 and video transport compression, so we’ll have to wait and see.

Sony’s PlayStation VR Revealed

 

 

 

Sony has recently announced the PlayStation VR, which is launching in October 2016. It features a 5.7″ OLED display, at a resolution of 1920×1080, which results in 960×1080 per eye. The device surprisingly offers a refresh rate of 120 hz, and a latency of under 18 milliseconds. While the resolution offered by the Playstation VR is lower than the Oculus Rift and the HTC Vive(1080X1200 per eye), the refresh rate of the Playstation VR is actually higher, operating at up to 120 hz, while the HTC Vive and Oculus Rift operate at 90 hz.

Sony has stated at GDC that they will require games to maintain a steady 60 fps(frames per second) or higher on the Playstation VR. Games that experience frame drops below 60 will be rejected, and not allowed to be published. This is understandable, as low framerates on a VR headset can cause motion sickness, and Sony would not want a bad experience with a few games ruining the reputation of their device. Developers will be given the option to target 60, 90, or 120 fps. According to the Tech Specs on the PlayStation website, the Playstation VR can operate at either 120 hz or 90 hz. This is useful to developers, as they can then target 90 fps, and have it feel smooth, without skipping frames. 60 fps may feel too choppy to users, while 120 fps may not be attainable without sacrificing gameplay elements or graphical fidelity. At 60 fps, the display would simply be refreshed with every other frame update, with the device operating at 120 hz.

As the PlayStation 4 is not a very powerful device in comparison to high end gaming PCs, it is likely that most virtual reality apps on the PlayStation VR will not maintain a high level of graphical fidelity. The Oculus Rift requires a r9 290 as the minimum GPU, which is over twice as powerful as the PlayStation 4 in terms of raw power, not accounting for the fact that games made for consoles are generally more optimized, as they only need to target 1 device configuration, unlike PC, where there’s billions of possible hardware combinations.

Most games on consoles nowadays run at 30 fps, and some often encounter drops as low as 20 fps. Developers will need to reduce the level of graphical detail to get their apps running at the minimum 60 fps for VR. On top of that, it would still be ideal to target 90 or 120 fps for the smoothest possible experience. The PlayStation 4 should still be able to deliver a solid VR experience, but don’t expect fancy graphics similar to what you see in existing games on the platform.

It is reasonable to assume that games on the PlayStation VR won’t look as pretty as they will look on PC. But at only $399for the headset, it is the cheapest virtual reality solution available, excluding hackish solutions such as the Google cardboard, that allow you to to use your phone as a VR display. The PlayStation VR requires a PlayStation 4 and the PlayStation Camera, which are sold separately. Considering that the cost of a gaming pc that meets the minimum requirements for The Oculus Rift or HTC Vive costs roughly $1,000(assuming prebuilt and new), the PlayStation VR may bring VR to the masses at a much more affordable price.

 

The Oculus Rift Will Have 30 Launch Titles, Over 100 Titles Launching in 2016

In an announcement today by Oculus, they provided a list of 30 games that will be in the Oculus Rift store for the March 28 Launch:

List of Oculus Rift launch titles

The company also expects over 100 titles to be added throughout 2016, and says they are working with “thousands of developers”.

The Rift store will be accessible either through an interface designed for VR, or the Oculus desktop app. This screenshot of the desktop Rift store may provide info on launch pricing, however it might not be final:

Oculus Store Desktop App

Read more at https://www.oculus.com/en-us/blog/introducing-30-games-coming-to-oculus-on-march-28/

Summary of AMD’s Bizarre “Capsaicin” Event at GDC

 

 

AMD’s ‘Capsaicin’ show was quite a unique experience. The entire theme of the event revolved around alcohol, hot peppers, and having fun.  Weeks prior to the show, AMD employees even tweeted about hot peppers to hype up the show, leaving readers confused. A weird metaphor was made about power efficiency, comparing the power efficiency advancements of Polaris GPUs to a story about how capsaicin, a component of hot peppers that produces the “hot” sensation, makes alcohol more efficient, and how the right amount of alcohol makes workers more productive.  There were hot pepper eating contests involving the crowd, attendees were invited to party and drink with AMD employees after the show, etc. Regardless of how bizarre the event was, some of the announcements made are quite exciting.

 

Here is a brief list of the technical announcements and demos at AMD’s GDC event, named “Capsaicin”:

 

AMD demos Hitman on a ‘Polaris 10’ GPU at 1440P 60 fps in Directx12. 

AMD’s Polaris 10 GPU was demoed playing Hitman at 1440P 60 fps, in directx12. It was unclear what settings it was being played on, and if the FPS is capped. The benchmark doesn’t really tell us much, since it is unclear what percentage of the GPU is needed to render the game at 60 fps, and how far beyond it could go if it was not capped. Still, it showed the Polaris 10 in action, which could end up coming the r9 490, as its the larger of two chip architectures they’ve demonstrated.

AMD Radeon Pro Duo Announced

Also referred to in speculation as the Fury X2, The Radeon Pro Duo is a dual-GPU graphics card with 2 Fiji-based GPUs. It’s essentially like running 2 Fury X’s in crossfire, except they’re on a single physical card. The card has a combined 8 GB of HBM memory, 16 TFlops of compute performance, and 4 display outputs. AMD Demoed the Fury X2 in the FIRE engine, where they demonstrated a significant reduction in render time by using the Fury X2 over the Fury X. Other representatives from other companies were also invited on stage to give testimonials on how it helped them create their products.

Fox Studios is Creating an Assassin’s Creed VR Experience

Created alongside the production of the movie, an independent VR experience is being created. The process involved using 360 degree cameras and scanning objects into 3d models, in order to create a 3d VR scene. The production is not supposed to be a game, but rather a VR experience.

Ubisoft is Developing Virtual Reality Games

Ubisoft has made a statement that they are adapting VR, and building VR games. They announced a VR app at the event called “Eagle Flight”. In this game, the user controls an eagle, and can fly around an abandoned city of Paris, 50 years after Humans left. The user can tilt their head to control their flight.

Sulon Q Wireless VR Headset Powered by AMD Demoed

The problem with current VR devices is that the existance of a cord restricts the possibilities of VR. Users may trip on the cord, and they cannot move far from their starting point without accidentally unplugging the device or knocking overheir desktop.The Sulon Q is a fully wireless virtual reality headset using AMD CPU. It combines an AMD FX CPU and R7 graphics internally within the headset to render the image from within the device, meaning that no cords are needed. This device was demoed at the event, showing an augmented reality application. The device processed depth through a camera, and then edits the view of the user, drawing in new elements to create a VR experience. In the demo, a giant beanstalk ripped through the floor and ceiling, and a giant pulls the player out of their building, into a new world. Unfortunately, the headset has a lower resolution per eye than other headsets, so may not offer the same level of quality as the Vive or Oculus Rift.

HP Plans to Create VR Ready PCs

HP’s VP of Virtual Reality announced that HP plans to expand their selection of pre-built gaming PCs to support virtual reality. This will help adaptation of virtual reality, by helping bring real world demos of virtual reality to popular stores such as Best Buy, so that people can experience it first hand, and see how amazing it is. Even if you dislike the idea of a prebuilt PC, it’s still exciting how they can help increase adaptation of virtual reality on PC.

Conclusion:

The vast majority of announcements are based around developments in Virtual Reality technology. AMD repeated a lot of information they’ve already released about AMD LiquidVR and GPUOpen, which I chose not to cover, as it isn’t new information. Basically, technologies like Asynchronous shaders, DX12, multi-GPU, and low latency to deliver a high quality VR experience, helping to fix issues such as motion sickness.

AMD Will Provide a Sneak Peek of Their New Polaris GPUs Tonight at 4 PM PDT

EDIT: If you missed the show, here is our summary of what was announced at the event.

 

AMD will be providing a sneak peek of their revolutionary new Polaris GPU architecture tonight on a stream at 4 PM PDT. According to /u/AMDJoe on Reddit, is considered a “Sneak peek” and not an announcement, which implies that there will not be information regarding launch dates or anything of that nature. However, we may expect to see additional information regarding performance such as benchmarks, more technical info regarding what the cards will offer, or images of the graphics cards themselves.

 

The stream can be viewed here: http://www.ustream.tv/channel/gQETjZzLnf9
The stream’s ‘about’ description makes reference to chili peppers, which is quite bizarre:

 

Chili Peppers come in many forms, colors, sizes and intensity levels. The essence of a chili pepper derives from a chemical compound known as 8-methyl-N-vanillyl-6-nonenamide, or capsaicin, the legendary and mysterious substance that delivers a chili’s spicy kick. The world’s best game and VR developers understand that to electrify the gaming universe, they need to fully harness the essence of their GPU, putting huge advancements in silicon and software together to send gamers into scoville-induced euphoria. Capsaicin at GDC will tantalize your senses with the latest gaming and VR technologies.

 

A few AMD employees have also been seen tweeting about chili peppers, as if they’re teasing about something. Perhaps we will find out tonight what all this talk about chili peppers is all about.

 

Link to the Stream

Rise of the Tomb Raider Adds Directx12 Support, and NVIDIA-Exclusive Graphics Effects

A recent patch to rise of the Tomb Raider has included support for DirectX12, a newer graphics API with additional functionality over DirectX11, and better threading of certain aspects such as draw calls. Users are reporting mixed results- while some report better performance, many also are experiencing worse performance. From the results I’ve seen, it seems that those experiencing CPU bottlenecks experience better performance on DX12, while those with GPU bottlenecks are experiencing worse performance in DX12.

It has been noted that SLI and Crossfire are not supported by the DX12 client in Rise of the Tomb Raider. If you utilize a multi-GPU setup, it is likely better to run the game in DX11. NVIDIA users also sometimes report that the game will not display anything when running in DX12, or may experience freezing. NVIDIA also recently released a driver that caused a multitude of issues, so it is possible that these issues may be caused by that driver. AMD users, on the other hand, seem to not be experiencing these issues.

Rise of the Tomb Raider’s DX12 also adds an NVIDIA-exclusive graphics effect known as NVIDIA VXAO. VXAO is a highly complex Ambient occlusion technique that provides heavy detail, at the cost of performance. This effect can only be turned on if you’re using an NVIDIA GPU with Maxwell architecture, which includes the GTX 900 series, and the Titan. Ambient occlusion works by placing shadows around the edges of objects, creating a sense of depth within the scene.

Here is a gif comparison, created by Clukos from Reddit.

NVIDIA’s VXAO places a heavy strain on performance, so it comes at a cost, even for those that have a GPU that supports it.

 

AMD’s 16.3 Driver Improves Performance, Fixes “Downclocking” Issue, Adds Vulkan Support

AMD has released its version 16.3 Crimson Driver. On the Fury X, the driver improves performance in Rise of the Tomb Raider by 16%, and Gears of War Ultimate Edition by 60%.  On the r9 380/380x, Gears of War Ultimate Edition performs 44% better.

In previous driver versions, many users of the r9 300/Fury series GPUs have reported issues where their GPU’s core clock speed falls below its maximum while playing games. This may cause stutter or poor frame rates in games. On Fiji based cards(Fury, Fury X, Fury Nano), it also caused issues with visual corruption when under low load(such as when browsing the web or viewing email). This resulted from AMD’s power efficiency technology called Powertune, which dynamically adjusts core clock speed based on GPU load, to reduce power usage when it is not needed. Unfortunately, it sometimes makes mistakes, resulting in poor performance or visual glitches. The good news is AMD’s new 16.3 driver allows you to turn off this power saving “feature” in the settings. Users no longer have to download third party programs to resolve this issue, as AMD now provides the option within their own graphics settings. Turning off the power efficiency settings will increase fan noise, temperatures, and power consumption when under partial load, but it may also fix performance issues as well as visual corruption on the Fury series of GPUs.

According to the release notes, the driver also includes support for Vulkan, an open source, cross platform, low-level graphics API that provides much of the functionality offered by Directx12 such as efficient draw calls across multiple threads, but compatible with other operating systems such as Linux or Mac. For more information on Vulkan, visit https://www.khronos.org/vulkan/.

Other features include:

  • Ability to use Eyefinity with only 2 displays
  • Ability to edit display scaling settings on a per-game basis(rather than just a global setting)
  • Support for external GPUs on specific laptops, through a thunderbolt/USB-C connection

The full release notes and download can be viewed on AMD’s site: http://support.amd.com/en-us/kb-articles/Pages/AMD_Radeon_Software_Crimson_Edition_16.3.aspx

OpenWorks Engineering Creates “Skywall”, A Net Launcher That Safely Takes Down Drones

Skywallnet

The usage of drones has grown significantly in recent years, far beyond simply being an enthusiast/hobbyist device and a military weapon. Drones are being experimented with for autonomous package delivery by Amazon, 5G phone network deployment by Google, and more. While Drones can provide many benefits to society, they also create a lot of safety, privacy, and security concerns. Like many inventions, they have the potential to be misused for illicit purposes. Law enforcement needs a way to take down drones that may be operating in ways that break the law. Recently, the United States passed a law requiring drone owners of drones weighting greater than 250 grams to register their drones through the FAA.

Shooting down a drone with an ordinary firearm is a massive safety risk, as stray bullets could cause serious injury or death. Deploying another drone for the purpose of taking down a rogue drone through collision is also dangerous, as collateral damage from the drone falling to the ground could also cause injury or death.

Skywall is a gas powered launcher that shoots a net, which neutralizes the drone. It then deploys a parachute, which drags the drone safely to the ground. By utilizing a net/parachute rather than bullets, it reduces the risk of collateral damage or injury by having the drone decline slowly, rather than having parts slam into the ground and possibly civilians. It also keeps the drone intact, which means that law enforcement could then perform forensics on the device, in order to retrieve data such as what the drone was used for, who deployed it/owns it, and more.

 

skywallsmartaim

The launcher utilizes a scope that implements a smart aiming technology. The on board computer system accounts for variables such as distance, and the velocity of the moving drone. It provides feedback in regards to aim, providing a solid tone when it is aimed correctly. If the net misses, the parachute still deploys to avoid any potential damage to nearby surroundings.

You can read more at http://openworksengineering.com/