After launching two high-end desktop VR solutions, hardware companies are now investing in the next technology designed to advance virtual reality. With a number of improvements yet to be made, tethered VR systems look to be the focus of future headsets.
What is wireless virtual reality?
Today, the leading desktop VR headsets, the HTC Vive and Oculus Rift, are held back by a number of shortcomings. One of the most common limitations of today’s hardware is the physical connection to a PC that is required to provide bandwidth for accurate tracking and display of information.
Previously, this tether placed heavy burdens on headset-assisted locomotion, not only creating a travel hazard due to the room’s sense of scale, but also hindering overall movement. While a number of companies have tried to create more mobile apps, they mostly come down to a backpack with a high-end PC setup.
As the name suggests, wireless virtual reality is an advancement that eliminates the physical wire between the PC and the headset. The current ideas behind its implementation are processing performed by high-performance desktop equipment, with tracking and visual transmission wirelessly via headphones. This will still leave the headset dependent on the PC, but will give VR an extra level of immersion.
How can I get started with wireless VR?
At the moment, wireless VR is not very common. While dozens of tethered devices are available through mobile VR, the same freedom is simply not available for high-end applications. Because desktop virtual machines already have a high barrier to entry in terms of PC hardware, the required performance is not currently achievable with a compact headset.
However, after some recent developments, the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive may go wireless faster than originally thought.
Oculus Santa Cruz: new shape
Known as the Santa Cruz, Oculus’ latest development in wireless VR technology is an upcoming standalone headset that offers a completely gaudy experience. Although the headset is still in its early stages, previews of working prototypes were shown in October during an Oculus keynote. Connect. This headset variant does not differ much from the traditional form factor, except for the new processor installed on the back of the device.
Understandably, Oculus has been a little tricky with details. What we do know for sure is that the headset uses four cameras and several other sensors to «take a look» at the world around you so you can walk around completely unsupervised. There is a border system similar to that of the Oculus Guardian, but fully supported by the computer on the back of the headset. No details are available on this computer, but its physical dimensions suggest that this experience will not be as high quality as the Oculus Rift itself. Expect something slightly better than the Samsung Gear VR based on current experience with prototypes.
HTC Vive TPCAST: old is new
Most recently, HTC unveiled a set of over-the-air upgrades for the existing HTC Vive, created in collaboration with TPCAST. This $220 add-on is designed to bring wireless VR to HTC Vive owners by taking advantage of the headset’s modular design. The wireless adapter connects to the top strap on the headset and the battery to power the adapter’s waist clips. That battery promises at least two hours of wireless gameplay before it needs to be recharged, which isn’t bad by VR gaming standards.
The most impressive part of this experience is the complete inability to feel the difference between wired and wireless gaming in terms of visual quality. This headset clip offers an incredibly similar experience in every game we’ve tried, and makes moving around that much more enjoyable.
If you’re interested in purchasing the HTC Vive Wireless Kit, pre-orders are now available on the official HTC Chinese website.