Meta's new rendering technique for Quest 2 is "no silver bullet"
The VR rendering method "Application Spacewarp" is supposed to get up to 70 percent more performance out of Meta Quest 2, but the new rendering technology still has weaknesses.
Meta presented Application Spacewarp, or AppSW for short, at Connect 2021. The rendering technique renders VR apps at half instead of full frame rate and artificially generates every missing second frame. This saves a lot of power, which can be channeled into better graphics and a higher frame rate.
AppSW sounds incredible, but it's not a no-brainer. Developers need to implement the rendering technique in VR apps and should - ideally - optimize graphical elements for AppSW. Otherwise, artifacting can occur with transparent or rotating objects. That is, glitches in the display from missing or incorrectly rendered frames.
Probably for this reason, there are hardly any virtual reality apps that use the rendering technique so far. To my knowledge, Green Hell VR is the first VR game in the Oculus Store to use AppSW.
Green Hell VR: First AppSW game with shortcomings
I recently played Green Hell VR for Meta Quest to see the rendering technology in action. Unfortunately, the implementation comes with drawbacks. I noticed artifacts on outlines of close and moving objects as well as transparent textures. This is not the end of the world, but it is still a bit annoying.
The advantage of AppSW is that Meta Quest 2 can render the lush jungle reasonably smoothly. Of course, it would be best not to see any artifacts.
This week's release of Red Matter 2 (review), which sets new standards in mobile VR graphics, does not offer AppSW. On Reddit, the studio writes why: the rendering technology has problems with transparent or glossy surfaces. In addition, there were bugs when trying out an early version.
Red Matter 2: AppSW update for higher frame rate possible
AppSW support for Red Matter 2 is not off the table yet. A representative from the studio told me that they will take another look at the rendering technology after the game is released. There may be bug fixes on the part of Meta that will make AppSW usable again for Unreal games like Red Matter 2.
"AppSW could for sure lower the barrier to entry for developers who don't have the optimization know-how. On the other hand, it could benefit those who do know how to optimize to get those gained FPS to improve the graphics," the studio says. "If we were to add AppSW we would have a toggle to switch between native 72fps and 45fps to 90fps with AppSW. That's because we have transparencies, and reflections and it might not look ideal."
However, AppSW is not a "silver bullet," the studio says. At least until developers find ways to make the most of AppSW, rather than adding it after the fact, and develop VR games with AppSW in mind from the start. That will take time.
If you want to try AppSW for free, you can download the Showdown Meta demo from the App Lab.