Using Super Resolution to Boost Resolution in Virtual Reality

Thursday 4/27/23 04:00am
Posted By Jonathan Wicks
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Snapdragon and Qualcomm branded products are products of
Qualcomm Technologies, Inc. and/or its subsidiaries.

Co-written by Sam Holmes

Virtual reality (VR) devices utilize high resolutions and framerates to create a sense of presence and immersion. Creating immersive content at these high resolutions and framerates can be taxing on performance, memory, system and wireless bandwidth, and power. At Qualcomm Technologies, Inc. we’ve been exploring solutions to address these challenges, and super resolution techniques is one such technique which can be beneficial.

Recently we worked with Guy Godin, creator of Virtual Desktop, to integrate Snapdragon Game Super Resolution boosting the quality of PCVR-to-HMD split rendering. VR gamers who were only able to render at the lower supported resolutions will now be able to upscale their favorite PCVR titles to the highest available resolution settings (Ultra / God Like) on the headset. And they can also take advantage of Synchronous Space Warp to help further reduce the VR-ready PC requirements. This will be available soon on multiple headsets with our Snapdragon XR2 Platform and its Qualcomm Adreno GPU.

PCVR Streaming Options in Virtual Desktop

What is super resolution and how can it help VR?
Super resolution techniques create higher resolution images from lower resolution inputs by refining details and enhancing features to produce sharp and clear visuals while using less resources than native rendering. By utilizing super resolution, platforms, and applications, developers can increase the display resolution while meeting framerates and maintaining visual fidelity.

Such approaches also benefit VR devices. Carefully tuned algorithms enhance PCVR-to-HMD split rendering setups by reducing the wireless bandwidth necessary to deliver rendered frames. Further, by applying super resolution on the HMD, headset power and bandwidth pressure is also reduced by only upscaling content close to the end of the display pipeline.

Key Features of Snapdragon Game Super Resolution for VR
The nature of VR systems requires special attention when implementing super resolution algorithms. There are several aspects specific to VR that factored into our solution:

  • Requires only the color buffer
    For ease of integration into VR systems and to support existing content, we selected an algorithm that only needs the color buffer to perform the upscaling. This is critical for enabling super resolution to be applied to existing applications, without developers needing to make any changes or rebuild applications.
  • Supports Frame Extrapolation
    Integrating with framerate extrapolation techniques like Synchronous Space Warp enables both framerate and resolution to be increased, which can double the available PC render time on top of the PC render savings already provided by HMD upscaling.
  • Low Latency
    Latency in VR should be kept low so a solution can be highly optimized for the target hardware. The upscaling solution has been carefully optimized for maximum performance while maintaining low power consumption on Snapdragon XR2 HMDs. This is done without adding any frames of latency.
  • Optimized Power and Bandwidth
    Unlike other popular super resolution algorithms, we use a single GPU pass, so it can be combined with other operations avoiding costly additional trips to memory and minimizing quality loss from sampling the image extra times.

Left: Blur from standard bilinear upscaling; Right: Snapdragon Game Super Resolution for VR


The high performance, low latency, single-pass nature of Snapdragon Game Super Resolution makes it well suited for both standalone and PCVR-to-HMD split rendering XR applications running on headsets with Snapdragon XR2 platforms.

Stay tuned, we'll have plenty more to share about Snapdragon Game Super Resolution for XR soon.

Interested in learning more about the Snapdragon XR2? Be sure to check out the Snapdragon XR2 HMD Reference Design.

For additional reading, check out our VR blogs and our Gaming Graphics blogs on Qualcomm Developer Network.

Snapdragon and Qualcomm branded products are products of Qualcomm Technologies, Inc. and/or its subsidiaries.