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Why it matters: AI-based image upscaling techniques from Nvidia, AMD, and Intel have become increasingly useful for improving game performance and image quality. However, competition between GPU manufacturers has made their support across titles spotty. Microsoft plans to reveal its response to the situation at GDC next month.

Microsoft will reveal DirectSR during its DirectX State of the Union presentation at GDC 2024 next month. Details on the technology are scant, but it will likely be Redmond’s response to AI-assisted image upscaling technologies currently offered by graphics card manufacturers.

The company’s announcement describes DirectSR – presumably short for Direct Super Resolution – as a new DirectX tool that makes it easier to implement image upscaling across Windows devices. While Microsoft hasn’t confirmed the exact nature of DirectSR, its stated design goal could help developers and users currently juggling at least three upscaling technologies.

Microsoft to unveil its new DirectSR AI image upscaling technology at GDC 2024

Nvidia’s DLSS was the first on the market, and comparisons between super-resolution methods often rank it best in image quality, but it requires the tensor cores only found in the company’s recent GPUs. Intel’s XeSS is similar, needing hardware from the company’s Arc GPUs for full effect, but a less efficient version using DP4a functionality commonly found in other cards is also available. AMD’s FSR is software-based and thus mostly hardware-agnostic, but it can appear less stable in motion.

Relatively few games support all three options, frustrating users. Applying the work from implementing one super-resolution technology to the others is simple enough that modders can quickly fill in the gaps when a title excludes DLSS or FSR.

Other system-wide options also exist for games that don’t natively support upscaling. The Nvidia control panel (and some titles, like Call of Duty) includes a basic spatial technique called Nvidia Image Scaling that works on any graphics card. The paid version of Lossless Scaling, available on Steam, contains a universal upscaling function utilizing machine learning. Furthermore, Microsoft teased an OS-wide alternative in a recent Windows insider build.

Beta testers can activate Automatic Super Resolution on a per-app basis in the display settings. However, Microsoft hasn’t confirmed anything about the feature, which could be related to DirectSR.

If DirectSR isn’t simply Microsoft’s take on FSR or DLSS, it might be a method of reconciling the numerous upscaling technologies. Engineers from Nvidia and AMD will participate in Microsoft’s GDC presentation on March 21, but it isn’t clear whether they will jointly speak about DirectSR. A toolchain allowing developers to easily support super-resolution options that take full advantage of every GPU’s capabilities would be greatly appreciated if that is indeed what Redmond is working on.

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