Nvidia's 3D Vision Pro Synchs Professional Apps With Stereo Hardware

Nvidia says its new 3D Vision Pro offering will drive three-dimensional parallel-processing by synchronizing professional graphics applications with stereoscopic 3D hardware.

On Monday, Nvidia launched 3D Vision Pro for professional graphics users, which comes with an Nvidia Quadro GPU and a bundle of hardware that includes displays, projectors, wireless shutter glasses and an RF communication hub, as well as software for graphics applications with support for full stereoscopic 3D and HD.

In an interview with CRN on Tuesday, Nvidia product manager Andrew Page said that all of Nvidia's professional stereoscopic solutions offer professional-level graphics-rendering for a variety of customers and markets, including molecular dynamics and computational chemistry.

"Stereoscopic 3D provides context for the brain to work as it was designed to, in order to speed up the process of work," Page said. "Stereoscopic viewing in general is fundamentally about providing a slightly different image to the left eye or the right eye. It doesn't matter what kind of display you use, since they all operate to give a slightly different view so that the brain is processing images the same way it sees through two eyes with slightly different points-of-view."

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3D Vision Pro, which supports Windows XP, Windows Vista and both 32-bit and 64-bit versions of Windows 7 and Linux, is available from PNY Technologies in the Americas and Europe.

Page said that 3D Vision Pro is a solution that manages those slightly different perspectives by using active shutter technology, which switches on and off, going from black to clear to black, about sixty times a second in each eye. 3D Vision Pro then synchronizes shutter technology with the 3D projection or panel with Nvidia's Quadro graphics solution, which powers the graphics content on the screen, he said.

Nvidia's Quadro processors are designed for professional graphics applications, but only higher-end Quadro GPUs support stereoscopic 3D technology. Page said that the Quadro 4000, 5000, 6000 and Quadro FX cards specifically include a VESA stereo connector on board, an industry standard that connects the graphics card and graphics board to the stereo device.

In Quadro boards that lack a stereo connector, including low-end Quadro boards, the solution actually operates over USB. Page acknowledged that those low-end Quadro boards are at the whim of any operating system or workstation charged with making sure the synchronization works at the right time -- which a VESA connector does when present. Page said that while the USB-connected GPU usually is effective in sending signals over the PCI bus to the operating system, the system can get rather busy and fall behind when running professional graphics.

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"In order to reduce that, we try to provide professional-grade experience inside our drivers," Page said. "In circumstances where we can't achieve that, the glasses will flicker occasionally. But with a stereo connector you get a direct line to the graphics board."

Page said 3D Vision Pro also allows Nvidia to use Quadro boards to enable projectors, including higher-end projectors that drive visualization environments such as corporate theaters or executive rooms where professional 3D graphics viewing takes place.

"3D Vision Pro is unique in how that synchronization happens," Page said. "It allows for a multi-user environment. It's built on radio-based infrastructure rather than infrared technology, much like a wireless connection, a keyboard or a mouse. It's a very immersive experience for a professional installation because it never moves the signal."

3D Vision pro then runs Nvidia's Fermi architecture, also known as CUDA, which enables applications to do massively parallel processing, Page said. Stereo technology lends itself well to running parallel applications with fluid dynamics computational power creating new and improved data sets with more detail.

"By taking advantage of that graphics board, 3D Vision Pro provides huge performance improvements to the customer," Page said.

As an example Page cited Sorenson Media's launch on Tuesday of Sorenson Squeeze 7, an upgraded version of Sorenson's video encoding application, designed for faster processing performance. According to a statement from Sorenson, the latest version of Squeeze includes GPU acceleration, adaptive bitrate encoding and new input and output formats.

Page said that having GPU-acceleration on the simulation side of the data transfer provides a far-richer experience on the visualization side.

Nvidia's 3D Vision Pro is priced at $349 for each pair of glasses and $399 for the RF hub.