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‘Coterie’ system brings high-quality multiplayer VR games to smartphones

Image credit: Roman Stetsyk | Dreamstime

Researchers in the US have developed a new approach in producing high-quality virtual reality (VR) that allows multiple players to interact with the same VR game on smartphones.

According to experts, VR headsets and application programs for VR are not gaining traction with users because of a chicken-and-egg dilemma: a lack of VR content and slow market penetration of custom-made VR units.

Now, a new VR system called 'Coterie', developed by a team at Purdue University, Indiana, is using a novel way to manage the challenging task of rendering high-resolution virtual scenes to satisfy the stringent quality-of-experience (QoE) within VR. The researchers said this system will provide new opportunities for enterprise, education, healthcare and entertainment applications.

The new approach includes high frame rate and low motion-to-photon latency, which is the delay between the movement of the user’s head or game controller and the change of the VR device’s display reflecting the user’s movement. Coterie also enables 4K-resolution VR on commodity mobile devices and allows up to 10 players to interact in the same VR application at a time, the researchers said.

“We have worked to create VR technology that someone can use on a typical smartphone with a Wi-Fi connection,” said Y Charlie Hu, the Michael and Katherine Birck professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering who led the Purdue team. “Our solution not only allows multiple players to participate in a VR game at the same time, but also provides a better and more cost-effective option for single-player use.”

Purdue’s Coterie system allows users to interact with the same VR app on smartphones and provide new opportunities for education, health care and entertainment

Purdue’s Coterie system allows users to interact with the same VR app on smartphones and provide new opportunities for education, healthcare and entertainment

Image credit: Purdue University

One reason for the heavy computational workload of high-resolution VR apps is the constant need to render updates to both the foreground interactions with the players and the background environment in the virtual world. Hu added that: “The heavy load simply cannot be handled by even high-end smartphones alone.”

To tackle this challenge, the Purdue team said that VR apps using Coterie split up this heavy rendering task between the smartphone and an edge server over Wi-Fi in a way that drastically reduces the load on the smartphone while allowing the subframes rendered on both to be merged into the final frame within 16ms, satisfying the VR QoE.

Hu added that this approach not only reduces the network requirement so multiple players can share the same Wi-Fi, but it also reduces the power draw and computation demand on each mobile device and provides a better user experience.

“Our technology opens the door for enterprise applications such as employee training, collaboration and operations, health care applications such as surgical training, as well as education and military applications,” Hu explained. “You could have multiple doctors and health care professionals interacting in a VR operating room.”

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