The HTC Vive Is Getting An Official Wireless Add-on

Huh. The smart money was on the Vive (and indeed Oculus Rift) not embracing the wireless future is so desperately needs until a full second generation of the hardware, but seems like we might get to cut the cord a whole lot sooner than that. An HTC partner company is about to start selling a little bolt-on box that makes the existent Valve-friendly headset entirely wireless. Finally, we can frolic freely, like Lawnmower Lambs.

In principle, it’s great news. There’s a holy trinity of drawbacks to current VR: comfort, image quality and cables. The latter is a particularly acute problem for the Vive, as it’s got that fancy-nancy room-scale stuff, but leaping and rolling and sprinting into the wall is rather tempered by having a heavy dangling cable attached to the back of your head.

TPCast, a company HTC chucked some cash into as part of a Vive development investment program, have come up with a tetherless add-on unit that’s being listed alongside official Vive accessories on HTC’s Chinese site and heartily endorsed by HTC at UploadVR, who broke this story.

Another company, QuarkVR, is working on a wireless wotsit for Vive also, in case you’re having a ‘wait a minute…’ moment, but this one has resolutely beaten it to the punch.

Most technical details are scarce – we don’t yet know whether it can truly manage the 2160×1200 resolution and 90 frames per second maximum of the Vive, given that other current wireless HDMI thingers aren’t exactly a perfect tech yet. It may be that some bandwidth-based compromise is involved, further hampering image quality.

However, it does make the headset entirely wireless – even power is supplied by a strap-on battery pack. Apparently that can power the thing for an hour and a half, which may not sound like much, but realistically VR gaming involves short sessions anyway.

The good news is that pre-orders open today, with launch set for early next year. The bad news, this is currently only for Chinese Vive owners. No doubt a Western release will follow, but HTC are coy on the matter for now. Pricing for the Chinese model is 1,499 RMB, which is about $220 or £800000.

Hopefully we’ll know more soon. I’d love to have this, but at the same time I’d rather save my money for a generally better second generation entirely.

From this site

27 Comments

  1. inspiredhandle says:

    I am thinking back to the tech article on here about that idiotic backpack/battery powered PC from a few days ago. I am laughing even harder now that it’s apparently completely obsolete before it even got to the market.

    • PseudoKnight says:

      Yaaaa.. let’s wait until someone reviews this wireless tech. We’re talking some serious latency and bandwidth requirements. There’s compromises here.

      • inspiredhandle says:

        I’m not saying this solves all problems for a wireless vr headset. Maybe at best it’s a marketable prototype, or a proof of concept that shows us that the tech is not as far away as we thought. It gives us much more hope for the potential of the next generation of vr. On that alone this is a triumph, one that makes the PC backpack thing look even more batshit insane than it did a week ago.

        Watch this space I guess. It’s pretty hard to accept that it’ll be able to deliver the vive’s full capability without wires. How great would it be to be proved wrong though?

        • PseudoKnight says:

          Apparently it adds 15ms of latency, which is a lot considering 15ms is the target latency for the entire thing. The frequency they use to meet the bandwidth requirements is also prone to occlusion interference. It needs decent line of sight. Turning around may block the signal. Waving a wand in front of your face may block the signal.

          It’s a nice experiment, though. It could work for sitting games with less head movement, but I guess that defeats the purpose.

        • skittles says:

          It depends on the purpose. For the average consumer backpack PC isn’t all that useful. However for VR experiences like Zero Latency it is indispensable.
          link to zerolatencyvr.com

          The average consumer can’t setup a large warehouse for gaming pleasure of course. But for those that can, backpack PC is indispensable.

          As already mentioned. Until wireless tech is updated, latency is going to be a big issue with a backpack. And if you want to do multiplayer stuff like zerolatency. That becomes even harder have multiple high bandwidth streams over the wireless.

  2. spacedyemeerkat says:

    Dunno what currency converter you’re using but it comes out at £823,223 for me.

  3. UncleLou says:

    Is it actually wise to strap a wireless device like that directly to the back of your head?

    • brucethemoose says:

      Kriegers Voice

      Mmmmmmm… maybe?

    • ezbez says:

      I don’t know the specifics of this device, but it could be harmless. The major bandwidth requirements here are for transmitting from the computer to the device. So it’s main job is as a receiver, in which case it’s positioning doesn’t change what radiation you’re exposed to. It’s transmitter duty could easily be handled by a lower power radio.

    • Carr0t says:

      People regularly use mobile phones for much longer than that, held right next to their ear, and keep them day-to-day in a pocket right next to some important next-generational organs. If that’s not an issue, I don’t see why this would be. A mobile might have to communicate with a cell tower quite some distance away. The furthest this is going to have to go is across a room.

    • TechnicalBen says:

      Do people go outside, where the sun is? Or stand next to trees?

  4. Solidstate89 says:

    For the bandwidth necessary, it’s probably using one of the specs that utilize the 60Ghz range of wireless communications.

    Which means if you so much as run your hand across the radio you could end up blocking the wireless signal – it’s that sensitive.

    • SingularityParadigm says:

      That is exactly what it is using, 60GHz. According to the TPCast website it also adds 15ms of latency…which as far as I am concerned is a problem. That only leaves 5ms for the entire graphics pipeline if one aims to come in below the absolute maximum acceptable latency for VR without compounding the likelihood of making people ill. I expect this device will be alright on some VR titles, and on others it will push them into vomit-inducing latency territory.

  5. Blutsuechtiger says:

    Latest WLAN tech allows high traffic. No big deal. Problem I see is powersupply….

    • eqzitara says:

      Eh,
      Not sure I agree. 2160×1200 resolution and 90 frames per second.

      Even ignoring latency. Thats ridiculous amount of bandwidth.

  6. KingFunk says:

    Gah, I remember when it was 10 yuan to the pound… 2009 – the good ole days…

  7. paddymaxson says:

    $220 to make your $700 toy work without lashing you to the computer by the back of your neck. It might have been a daft jokey term to use, but VR headsets really are becoming “privilege goggles”.

    • Sakkura says:

      Do you go around saying the same about people who spend $1000+ on a TV? Or all the other stuff people spend lots of money on.

    • Arx says:

      I hate to admit it, but I absolutely love this term. “Buffy,” I shall say to my wife, “I simply can’t attend the soiree this evening. I’ve had a dreadful day among the unwashed rabble, and I require a long session with my privilege goggles. Oh, and have the sommelier executed, would you? This riesling is appalling.”

      • eqzitara says:

        People bitch and moan about prices of things UNTIL they really want it.
        People as a WHOLE don’t want VR in general yet. Its not there yet and is seen as an expensive accessory.

        This whole VR prices discussion could of been put to 4k/HDR literally a week ago. Now that there is actually a big use for it. People want it. There are endless threads on PS4 reddit of people talking about which 4K they are getting and which is good for HDR.

        I think people will be shocked by 4K adoption rate very soon.

  8. Moonracer says:

    It’s a step in the right direction, though I’m perfectly happy with the hardware for this generation. It’s optional for those who want to test the tech. Personally, the wires are a limited nuisance for an amazing experience.

  9. Josh W says:

    Lambs are a fairly good way of mowing your lawn.

    At least, if you’ve got enough land to be a stately home, but aren’t as bothered about random sheep poo. But mowing grass is basically their way of life.

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