MARCH 15, 2016 • Topping early virtual reality announcements at this week’s Game Developers Conference in San Francisco was the Sulon Q headset from Sulon Technologies Inc. The device was unveiled on stage at an event held by Advanced Micro Devices, Inc. What sets the Sulon Q apart from competitors is the headset is an all-in-one unit that includes computer processing. The Sulon Q uses AMD’s FX-8800P accelerated processing unit (APU) that features Radeon R7 graphics, in addition to AMD’s LiquidVR technology. Sulon’s spatial processing unit adds augmented reality options to the headset. The Sulon Q is Windows 10 based, supports DirectX 12 and Vulkan development APIs, and comes with a 2560 x 1440 OLED display. In addition to the FX-8800P’s four computing cores, eight GPU cores are addressable. The Solon Q also features 256GB of SSD storages, 8GB of DDR3 memory, WiFi and Bluetooth support, plus two USB 3.0 ports. A late spring launch for the Sulon Q is the current target, but no MSRP has been disclosed.
Impact: As the Sulon Q incorporates so much AMD technology it is no wonder the processor company went to great lengths to show the VR device off. Make no mistake, however, this year’s GDC is flooded with virtual reality plays and the constant droning of VR hype makes it difficult for smaller players to get noticed, which is another reason the high profile sneak peek of the Sulon Q stands out as newsworthy. Promotion aside, the device does have some standout features. The complete lack of tethering to a base PC or console is most noteworthy. Although the greater freedom of movement this suggests would seem desirable, giving consumers more license to move about carries some physical and liability risk, as well. Sulon’s design gets away from this on paper by incorporating augmented reality that provides real-time environment mapping and tracking from the inside outward. Another departure point for the Sulon Q is the power of its hardware. So far, both the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive both recommend beefier specifications than what comes with the Sulon Q. Sulon meets that distinction by claiming its Heterogeneous System Architecture is much better at sharing workload and memory between cores.
With no opportunity to test the hardware, we cannot say whether the Sulon Q succeeds at matching the experiences provided by its competitors. Neither can we speculate on how the extra weight of an all-in-one headset affects user comfort. Regardless, the Sulon Q is an innovative take on what VR hardware should be that supports the games currently in development. If Sulon can keep the price close to $1,000, then it can make a good argument that its headset is a decent value for those who do not already have a $1,500 gaming desktop ready to plug in a $599 or $799 VR device into. The downside to that argument is that the Solon Q is hardware locked and not upgradeable down the road when more intensive VR applications require more powerful processing. Yet the concern is that the industry now has another viable VR hardware option where there already are a lot of different products looking to establish a nascent consumer installed base.