SteamVR Motion Smoothing Reduces Lag on Lower-End PCs

Think you can’t play VR games because you don’t have a high-end PC? Think again. Valve just introduced a new SteamVR feature called Motion Smoothing that makes VR games work better with less lag on low-end PCs.

“When SteamVR sees that an application isn’t going to make framerate (i.e. start dropping frames), Motion Smoothing kicks in,” Valve Graphics Programmer Alex Vlachos explained in a blog post. “It looks at the last two delivered frames, estimates motion and animation, and extrapolates a new frame. Synthesizing new frames keeps the current application at full framerate, advances motion forward, and avoids judder.”

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When Motion Smoothing kicks in, the app essentially renders one out of every two frames, “dramatically lowering the performance requirements,” Vlachos wrote. If that doesn’t improve the situation, Motion Sensing can synthesize two or even three frames for every one delivered by the app.

All the while, players experience the game’s full frame rate. “From the player’s perspective, what was previously a game that would hitch and drop frames producing judder is now a game that constantly runs smoothly at 90Hz,” Vlachos wrote. The feature also benefits higher-end GPUs, allowing them to “render at an even higher resolution.”

Motion Smoothing is currently available in beta and only works on Windows 10 systems with an Nvidia GPU. It does not work on Oculus Rift or Windows Mixed Reality headsets because they use different techniques to deal with this issue. To opt in, head to Library > Tools, right-click on Steam VR, select the Betas tab, and choose “beta” from the drop-down.

Then, when an application starts dropping frames, Motion Smoothing will kick in automatically.

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