AMD buys Nitero wireless VR startup

AMD has acquired Nitero, a company that builds wireless chips for streaming virtual reality content from desktop computers to headsets, Forbes reports. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Quite a few things held VR headset adoption back in 2016, but one of the most visible issues (aside from price) were the bulky cords required by most high-end headsets. HTC’s Vive, Facebook’s Oculus Rift and Sony’s PlayStation VR all require data and power transfer cables.

“Unwieldly headset cables remain a significant barrier to drive widespread adoption of VR,” Mark Papermaster, AMD’s CTO, said in a statement, also detailing that “key engineering talent” will be coming aboard as part of the deal.

While many expect all-in-one headset designs to increase in popularity over the next few years, there really is no replacement to the boundary-pushing specs available on high-end PCs running the latest graphics cards. For this reason, the Nitero acquisition makes a whole lot of sense for AMD, which has seen a lot of its growth over the past year pinned on the promise that VR will continue to push GPU development needs.

Nitero rode the same wave of VR enthusiasm as AMD. Though many investors are concerned about the headset adoption rate over the past year, there has been less disillusionment surrounding the evolution of structural pillars central to VR’s future success, such as 5G, super high-res displays, battery tech, boundary pushing GPUs and wireless transmission tech.

Though Nitero’s initial ambitions were to design 60 Ghz wireless chips for mobile devices, capitalizing on much of the excitement and investment in the virtual reality space, the firm recently pivoted to focus on providing its chips for headsets tethered to powerful PCs.

This past year, Valve — which built much of the underlying tech behind the HTC Vive and operates the SteamVR platform it runs on — announced at its developer conference that it had made a “significant investment” in Nitero.