Can You Create an Energy-Efficient VR Headset?

August 8, 2018

Christine Young By: Christine Young
Blogger, Maxim Integrated 


Virtual reality (VR) can take you to faraway places from the comfort of your living room, while  augmented reality (AR) can make gaming more interactive (Did you get caught up in the Pokemon GO craze?). One of the tradeoffs for these rich, immersive experiences, however, is limited battery life for the devices. Popular headsets on the market promise a couple of hours of runtime between charges. That’s barely enough time to get through a movie. And if the headset is shared with the rest of the household, well, hopefully the next user has patience to wait a few hours while the device is recharged.

The power challenges of VR/AR headsets are common dilemmas faced by many computationally intensive, always-on mobile electronics. Think home automation hubs, set-top boxes, gaming systems, and netbooks. Increasingly, these types of applications rely on multi-core CPUs, APUs, GPUs, artificial neural network accelerators, and machine-vision algorithms—all in a compact form factor. Because the devices are so small, the batteries must follow suit. So, as computational power rises in these types of applications, designers are challenged to:

  • Maximize performance per watt
  • Increase system efficiency
  • Reduce board space

VR HeadsetVR headsets are an example of a computationally intensive application that can benefit from a highly integrated PMIC.

PMICs Pack a Powerful Punch

Maxim’s highly integrated power management ICs (PMICs) deliver high performance for computationally intensive applications where space constraints, component costs, high efficiency, high horse power, power sequencing, and robustness are important considerations. Two of the newest PMICs in this portfolio are:

  • The MAX77752 multi-channel integrated PMIC, which has four regulators (3x buck converters and a 150mA low-dropout linear regulator (LDO)), offers more than 90% peak efficiency at 3.6VIN, 1.8VOUT and a load current of 3A, features 3x GPIO to enable external regulators, and is available in a 70mm2, 40-pin TQFN. An in-rush current limiter ensures stability during a hot-plug event, and a flexible power sequencer allows hardware- or software-controlled power up.
  • The MAX77714 complete system PMIC, which has 13 regulators (4x buck converters and 9 LDOs), offers >90% peak efficiency at 3.6VIN, 1.1VOUT, features 8x GPIO, and is available in a 230mm2, 70-bump WLP. It has an I2C-compatible interface, a flexible power sequencer, and a low quiescent current of 85µA in sleep mode.

"Technologists today are driving unique innovations in AR, virtual assistance, real-time deep learning, and beyond. This entails shrinking form factors, while deploying multi-core CPUs, GPUs, artificial neural network accelerators, and machine-vision algorithms. In parallel, businesses are striving to accelerate time to market, leading to newer challenges arising from this rapid amalgamation. Standard, discrete solutions fall short in addressing them," said Karthi Gopalan, director of Business Management for Maxim's Mobile Power Business Unit. "Maxim’s newest PMICs are streamlined with scalable and configurable resources to power the fastest mobile processors. They sport gaming-level performance without sacrificing power efficiency, for the expanding AI-driven consumer landscape and industrial IoT applications."

End users expect their electronic gadgets to run cool for long periods of time between charges. In single-chip solutions, Maxim’s high-performance PMICs deliver a complete set of power management capabilities that enable application processors to operate at peak levels and deliver a stable, high-quality user experience.