Microsoft does DLSS? Look out world, AI-powered upscaling feature for PC games has been spotted in Windows 11

Windows 11’s big update for this year could come with an operating system-wide upscaling feature for PC games in the same vein as Nvidia DLSS or AMD FSR (or Intel XeSS).

The idea would be to get smoother frame rates by upscaling the game’s resolution. In other words, running at a lower resolution, and artificially ramping it up to a higher level of detail, but with a greater level of fluidity than running natively, all of which would be driven by AI.

The ‘Automatic Super Resolution’ option is currently hidden in test builds of Windows 11 (version 26052 to be precise). Leaker PhantomOfEarth enabled the feature and shared some screenshots of what it looks like in the Graphics panel in the Settings app.

There’s a system-wide toggle for Microsoft’s own take on AI upscaling, and per-app settings if you wish to be a bit more judicious about how the tech is applied.

In theory, this will be ushered in with Windows 11 24H2 – which is now confirmed by Microsoft as the major update for its desktop OS this year. (There’ll be no Windows 12 in 2024, as older rumors had suggested was a possibility).

We don’t know that Automatic Super Resolution will be in 24H2 for sure, though, as it could be intended for a later release, or indeed it might be a concept that’s scrapped during the testing process.

Analysis: Microsoft’s angle

This is still in its very early stages, of course – and not even officially in testing yet – so there are a lot of questions about how it will work.

In theory, it should be a widely applicable upscaling feature for games that leverages the power of AI, either via a Neural Processing Unit – the NPUs now included in Intel’s new Meteor Lake CPUs, or AMD’s Ryzen 8000 silicon – or the GPU itself (employing Nvidia’s Tensor cores, for example, which are used to drive its own DLSS).

As noted, though, we can’t be sure exactly how this will be applied, though it’s certainly a game-targeted feature – the text accompanying it tells us that much – likely to be used for older PC games, or those not supported by Nvidia DLSS, AMD FSR, or Intel XeSS for that matter.

We don’t expect Microsoft will try and butt heads with Nvidia in terms of attempting to outdo Team Green’s own upscaling, but rather supply a more broadly supported alternative, one which won’t be as good. The trade-off is that wider level of support, much as already seen with AMD’s Radeon Super Resolution (RSR), which is, in all likelihood, what this Windows 11 feature will resemble the most.

Outside of gaming, Automatic Super Resolution may also be applicable to videos, and perhaps other apps – video chatting, maybe, at a guess – to provide some AI supercharging for the provided footage.

Again, there are already features from Nvidia and AMD (the latter is still incoming) that do video upscaling, but again Microsoft would offer broader coverage (as the name suggests, Nvidia’s RTX Video Super Resolution is only supported by RTX graphics cards, so other GPUs are left out in the cold).

We expect Automatic Super Resolution is something Microsoft will certainly be looking to implement, more likely than not, to complement other OS-wide technologies for PC gamers. That includes Auto HDR, which brings HDR (or an approximation of it) to SDR games. (And funnily enough, it looks like Nvidia is working on its own take on that ability, building on RTX Video HDR which is already here for video playback).

As you may have noticed at this point, there are a lot of this kind of performance-enhancing technologies around these days, which is telling in itself. Perhaps part of Microsoft’s angle is a simple system-level switch that confused users can just turn on for upscaling trickery across the board, and ‘it just works’ to quote another famous tech giant.

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