Virtual Reality technology is starting to gather momentum as a combination of the technology catches up with the imagination of developers all over the world. We've seen a number of alternative ways to access the technology, including those headsets that incorporate a smartphone such as Google Cardboard and those that use a computer, such as the Oculus Rift headset. There is a third type of device, one that contains all of the electronics built into the headset without a smartphone that needs to be slotted into place and recharged. And now, Chinese chipset designer, Allwinner, is launching an all-in-one virtual reality board called the Allwinner H8 or H8vr, which is a board designed to be bundled into a headset.
The board is based around an octa-core ARM Cortex-A7 system-on-chip paired up with the PowerVR SGX544 GPU. This technology may sound rather pedestrian as the Cortex-A7 is an older 32-bit ARM reference application core design that saw service as the LITTLE component of early generation big.LITTLE System-on-Chips, and the PowerVR SGX544 was introduced in early 2013. The System-on-Chip is backed up by 2 GB of RAM, 16 GB of local Nand Flash storage, but supports video playback of up to 4K resolution at 60fps. The device is designed to run the Android operating system and the hardware has a focus on providing high-performance, high-efficiency video decoding by producing 60% as much heat as competitors for the same workload, using less power. Allwinner states that a 3,000 mAh battery should provide almost three hours of uptime, representing a 20% power saving compared with competitors. The overall package will be relatively lightweight package at 300g. The H8vr will include onboard Wi-Fi for real-time live streaming to the headset. Allwinner has optimized the H8vr for video playback because mobile chips are not good enough yet for the full interactive experience – systems produce too much heat and are too heavy to be comfortable.
However, as well as introducing the Allwinner H8vr component, the company also discussed the V3 360 degree camera, ready for mass production and shipment – and compatible with boards equipped with the H8vr board. The company also unveiled its product roadmap until 2017. Their next VR product is the VR9, which will be released towards the end of the year. This headset will offer four times the performance and will support full mobile virtual reality gaming support. Following this, Allwinner will release the VR10 in 2017, which is to be based around a new architecture chipset and will contain a combined software and hardware artificial intelligence module, although the exact details are unknown at this time. The VR10 will be twice as quick but use half the power of the VR9. With the VR9 only a few months away and the VR10 a few months after this, it seems that Allwinner is attempting to make a splash now to benefit in the coming year. The company is expecting the all-in-one Virtual Reality headset to be the market winner by 2020, but depending on the cost of the hardware, many customers will not want to buy a smartphone and an all-in-one VR headset, when a cardboard-like frame and a suitable powerful smartphone device could be considerably cheaper. You can see Allwinner's presentation in the embedded YouTube clip below.