The latest effort in the search to make virtual reality more reality than virtual comes from Matrox in the shape of its Parhelia 512 graphics card.

Apart from raw processing power supplied by two 400MHz Ramdacs, the Parhelia 512 achieves its performance by the use of clever software techniques, such as depth-adaptive tessellation. This varies the number of elements used to render objects on screen depending on their distance.

Objects displayed on screen by a computer are made up of triangles. The more triangles used to render an object, the greater its detail and the more realistic it looks. Using fewer triangles to render distant objects has little effect on their appearance, although it does reduce the load on the graphics processor leaving it free to render the fore- and middle-ground in even better detail. Voilà — better graphics.

The board uses 30bit colour depth, which is 64 times more precise than current 24bit colour graphics cards, and is capable of delivering a staggering one billion colours.

The Parhelia 512 can also drive three monitors simultaneously, useful if you habitually switch between numerous application windows, and is capable of providing a truly immersive wraparound display for gaming.

Outputs include analogue, digital and TV. A 128MB version should be available for about $400, but Matrox has not yet decided on UK prices.