AMD’s wireless VR technology and talent grab hints at something bigger

There are two main drawbacks to VR. One is that high-end solutions are expensive, such as the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive. And the other is having to contend with wires. AMD might be on a path to solve at least one of those issues, as it just acquired intellectual property and "key engineering talent" from Nitero, a startup that makes chips for wireless VR and AR systems.

"Unwieldly headset cables remain a significant barrier to drive widespread adoption of VR," said Mark Papermaster, AMD chief technology officer and senior vice president. "Our newly acquired wireless VR technology is focused on solving this challenge, and is another example of AMD making long-term technology investments to develop high-performance computing and graphics technologies that can create more immersive computing experiences."

AMD is in a relatively good spot at the moment. It just recently thrust itself back into the high-end CPU game with Ryzen, and later this year it will release a new GPU architecture (Vega) that could bring parity back between it and Nvidia.

Making a play into wireless VR technology represents another path for AMD to pursue, one that doesn't stray from its core strengths. AMD has already dabbled in VR through marketing partnerships that tout VR-ready systems using its CPUs and GPUs. Developing a wireless VR solution, or offering technologies that allow others to do so would be a more meaningful approach the category.

Nitero's big product is a 60GHz wireless chip for VR and AR. The company says it has the potential to enable multi-gigabit transfers with low latency in room-scale VR environments. It also uses beamforming, a technology found on many Wireless-AC routers, to bypass the need for line-of-sight associated with traditional high-frequency mm-wave systems.

"Our world class engineering team has been focused on solving the difficult problem of building wireless VR technologies that can be integrated into next-generation headsets," said Nitero co-founder and CEO Pat Kelly. "We are excited to play a role in furthering AMD’s long-term technology vision."

Kelly is part of the talent that is joining AMD. He will serve the company's corporate vice president of Wireless IP.

Paul Lilly

Paul has been playing PC games and raking his knuckles on computer hardware since the Commodore 64. He does not have any tattoos, but thinks it would be cool to get one that reads LOAD"*",8,1. In his off time, he rides motorcycles and wrestles alligators (only one of those is true).