Quark VR Working On Wireless HTC Vive Prototype

The level of immersion you get from VR is impressive, to be sure, but nothing mars that experience quite like tripping over a cord and conking your head on the coffee table. Quark VR are hoping to save the day with a wireless HTC Vive prototype. Well, nearly wireless. It’s a work in progress.

The company are not making official Vive hardware but have met with Valve representatives, they explain in a blog post. “Valve’s experts are, of course, aware that wireless VR is the future of the technology, so they were more than happy to cooperate with us on the task,” they say. And so, with Valve’s blessing, they’ve decided to move forward with their idea to save VR from its potential concussion-ridden future.

So here’s the thing — they’re not working on a wireless headset as much as they’re creating some sort of Wi-Fi transmitter dongle that connects to the headset. This leaves you free to roam the room untethered from your PC. You can stick the device in your pocket, where it’ll send signals between your computer and the Vive. That sounds all well and good, but what’s the latency like?

Quark VR admit latency is “a huge challenge” in designing their little wireless gadget but they expect they’ll be able to show a successful prototype this autumn. No word yet on quite what they’ll do with it after that, but they do intend to open source the design.

If you’re curious, UploadVR chatted with Quark VR and have a little more information on the technology behind this.

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30 Comments

  1. Regibo666 says:

    The Wire on Vive isn’t half as bad as some make out. I think many people are simply picking faults with any thing they can when it comes to VR.

    I know I’ve never tripped. My 5 year old gets pretty physical when she plays and not once has she tripped. The only issue I’ve found is it becomes a bit twisted and coiled after extended play sessions.

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      particlese says:

      Yeah, same here: no tripping over the cable (possibly because I’ve never gotten absorbed enough to not notice it hitting my feet) and pretty minimal tangling problems.

      What I have had a problem with is yanking cables (usually HDMI) out of the breakout box because I walked a bit too far, and then having to restart SteamVR via mouse, keyboard, and monitor. Ruins the immersion a little.

    • Cinek says:

      I think that wire is precisely as bad as people make it to be. Perhaps not because of tripping, but because stepping on it is annoying as heck, it adds surprising amount of weight to the headset (I’m nearly 2 meters tall, so have to lug over 2 meters of 3 cables melted in thick rubber), and restrains your movement if you want to make use of that 360° that /r/vive pushes all the time.

  2. vorador says:

    They’re basing their technology on WiFi. WiFi wasn’t designed for the low latency VR requires, so i cannot fathom how they’re going to resolve it.

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      phuzz says:

      They say “Wi-Fi”, but that might be just a PR person mistranslating “wireless” and that they’ve created their own protocol (or they might be using an existing tech).

      • Zenicetus says:

        Yep, I bet they’re talking wireless and not wi-fi. The latency for wireless digital pro audio applications (wireless mics and guitars at concerts) is somewhere below 1.5ms. And it’s continuous with no dropouts unless the signal gets stepped on.

        I don’t know what the latency is for wireless digital video in applications like that, but it must be pretty low to work at all. I’m sure this is do-able. The question will be at what price?

        • Xzi says:

          $200 – $300 on top of buying the Vive itself is what I’m hearing. To clarify: from sources around the web, not, “the best people.”

          Not worth it to me. I get pretty active with the Vive (perhaps more so than I did even with DDR), and I’ve had no incidents while in the headset. It’s essentially a non-issue for current VR tech, but it will be nice to have in the future if/when it gets cheaper.

          • Cinek says:

            It’s something that should come build-in a next vive. Not a separate cost on top of it.

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          phuzz says:

          I guess it helps that generally VR headsets are used within a single room, so they can tune for high-bandwidth at the expense of range.
          Logically you’d at the antennas to the tracking cameras, so they have a constant line of sight.

  3. Bum Candy says:

    Yes I think the cable problem is overblown also, I’ve got it caught between my feet maybe once and it’s simple enough to step out of. As long as you store the cable flat and straight it tends not to even coil up. Wireless is the dream though.

  4. Artist says:

    The original blog says “keeping in mind the inevitable connection delay, was a huge challenge” but this text changed it to “is”. Doesnt that change the information?

  5. Sakkura says:

    Intel has been tinkering with connecting an Oculus DK2 wirelessly.

    There is A LOT of work going into this issue, but it’s just really damn hard. Wireless has gotten good enough for a lot of other uses, but VR is notoriously demanding.

    They may just about squeeze out a usable wireless solution for current headsets. But the problem will just come back with a vengeance once you introduce higher-resolution headsets.

    • SingularityParadigm says:

      Line-of-sight wireless networking with 60GHz Wifi is one likely solutions, while LiFi offers a slightly less likely solution. Nothing has really needed the bandwidth they offer before, and the wall-penetration of lower frequencies was more important… but un-tethered VR actually presents a reasonable use-case. Mount a transmitter/receiver on the ceiling and a corresponding one on the headset and you should be able to ditch the cable.

      • SingularityParadigm says:

        That is, as long as an external computer is necessary. The obvious end game is self-contained mobile VR with inside-out tracking using computer vision simultaneous localization and mapping. The unfortunate truth though is that there will always be a trade-off between performance, power consumption, and heat, so even with sufficient tracking tech the self-contained mobile device will be constrained on performance.

      • Sakkura says:

        It is indeed 60GHz WiGig, but it’s not strictly line of sight. They have managed to make it work indirectly to some extent. But of course a 60GHz signal does not go far. Along with the bandwidth being stupid high, it does make VR by far the most reasonable real-world use.

        Which is why Intel is working on it, of course. They’re not going to sell VR headsets or software, but they could shift a ton of chips for routers and wireless cards.

  6. Kefren says:

    I’d prefer wired, sat down. Every wireless element you add is another thing that needs charging; either you try and keep them all topped up, or you deal with each thing running out at different rates. Then the question of whether you can replace batteries, or if they just lose performance all the time (like iPads and so on?)

    I like the idea of wireless; I don’t like the idea of batteries in everything. The latter is more hassle (and probably environmental damage) than the cables.

    • El Mariachi says:

      Then you miss half the point of the Vive, which is that you can move your physical body around in VR space. It can be a pretty big box too, if you have room. So you sidestep incoming fire by actually stepping to one side, instead of pressing A on your keyboard to “strafe.” You circle an object you want to inspect by walking around it. Obviously you’re not going to be running around doing Mirror’s Edge parkour shit with your own arms and legs, at least until they invent some kind of 360° variable-height treadmill, but the immersion is an order greater than your face simply pivoting about the center of a sphere.

      • Kefren says:

        I haven’t got any space in my house for that. The only thing I could do in my current home, short of emptying a room, is to play seated. So I would just need a headset with tracking.

      • Cinek says:

        Doesn’t change the fact that only full, proper games on Vive that don’t feel like a tech demos are flight and racing sims – all of which are seated.

        • Eery Petrol says:

          Hmm. You do make that ‘fact’ hard to check by fudging it up with the term ‘proper game’. Regardless, the current Steam Store’s top five best selling VR games features only one game that does not offer room-scale play.

          • Kefren says:

            Many games that can be played in VR are not in the Steam VR store. The Steam VR store is specifically for more recent games that the publisher chooses to sell in the Steam VR store, presumably by fulfilling Valve requirements. They tend to be room-scale and so on. Personally, very few of those appeal to me; I’m much more interested in finding ways to play older games that I already love, in VR.

  7. Ichi_1 says:

    One of the best solutions I’ve seen to this issue so far is to have the PC on you, instead of on a desk. If you get a powerful enough but lightweight PC or gaming laptop and have it in a purposely created rucksack then you get complete freedom with zero latency.

  8. Eery Petrol says:

    Vive owner here. In the months I’ve used it, I haven’t tripped over my wires a single time. At least for me and my friends, that’s an unjustified fear. Replacing the cord with Wi-fi would only give me the risk of problematic latency or packet loss…

    Head mounted display cords do feel like a drawback of early generation devices. Solutions like head mounted computing (Microsoft’s Hololens) or future technologies for improved wireless data transfer (Li-Fi) seem like interesting possibilities for the future.

  9. lukibus says:

    Has anyone tried using multiple 3D headsets (of the same type and/or different) in the same space (room)? Does cable tangling mean that multiplayer party games aren’t very pactical?

    Wireless would address this but mean that within the same space there are interference problems.

    • fabronaut says:

      Somewhat delayed reply here, but I got a chance to try a Vive for the first time earlier this week.

      In a basement with two Vives in use, with an opaque, moderate weight curtain in between, there were still some interference issues between the two systems.

      Specifically, there was some weirdness when the one system was running, and the other one was powered on. Possibly because the setup didn’t shield the ~120 degree sweep of the Lighthouse array from interfering with the VR system that was already on.

      I was trying out Google Tilt Brush when the other one was powered on again, and the perspective started doing that whole “zoom in, zoom out” thing that cameras can do if you fiddle with the, erm, zoom. And the perspective was horrendously skewed.

      If you’re going to have two in the same physical area, I’d highly recommend putting down some VERY heavy curtain at the least and making sure the entire area is physically boxed in. I think there was some spillover of wireless signals (or possibly the grid array for positional location?).

      It only really mucked things up badly when the one system was turned on while the other was currently running, so perhaps it’s an edge case… Presumably using more than one system in a contiguous open area would be a bad idea, unless they’re really far apart?

  10. Dr Biffo says:

    It’s actually better having a chance of tripping over a physical wire (not that one even can, since we’re sitting down whilst gaming) than to later discover that your loved ones have the “hidden bonus” of a dose of inoperable brain cancer from the Wi-Fi strapped to their heads for hours. But I suppose that known documented health studies are just those annoying little things that need be hidden from the uneducated, unwashed plebs, only to be discovered later down the line after the fact, right RPS?

  11. Grumpy Trooper says:

    See, I have my wire running through an eye-hook placed quite high so the cable never touches the floor so you can’t trip over it. The HMD perfectly reaches all corners of my playing space and makes it easier to store when not in use (wires not tangled etc).