Earlier this week it was revealed that HTC would be offering a wireless Vive upgrade kit made by TPCAST. More details have surfaced on the device ahead of its Q1 2017 launch.

Made available so far only through HTC’s Chinese Vive website, alongside other official accessories, the TPCAST device is said to make the Vive completely wireless from its host PC, with the Vive division’s Chinese president, Alvin Wang Graylin, claiming there’s no noticeable difference in the wired vs. wireless performance. The company creating the device is part of HTC’s ‘Vive X’ accelerator program.

The 1,400 RMB (~$220) device went up for pre-order last week through the Chinese Vive site and had sold out within minutes. There’s no telling how many units were actually available for pre-order, so it’s unclear whether or not there’s reason to be surprised, but it’s clear that people are very interested in the idea of making the Vive wireless.

Though it was reported prior to the pre-orders that the Chinese Vive site would allow customers to order the device internationally, several people who attempted to ship it outside of China reported that they were unable. Graylin tweeted that we’re likely to see a new round of pre-orders for the TPCAST wireless Vive kit, and that it “should make global orders easier.”

Details of the device are beginning to surface, including indications that it could be used with other VR headsets. TPCAST’s website reveals that the product is based on 60GHz wireless technology. The company claims 15ms latency, though it isn’t clear at this time exactly what that latency figure encompasses. The VR industry largely agrees that latency needs to be lower than 20ms to make things quick enough for high immersion, but it isn’t clear if the TPCAST device adds an additional 15ms to what’s already there, or if it fits within the existing 20ms envelope.

tpcast-transmitter
The TPCAST transmitter sits atop the users head

60GHz wireless technology is being investigated by a number of companies for use in wireless VR applications, including one that Valve invested in separately from HTC. While the frequency provides lots of bandwidth, it isn’t great at penetrating surfaces, meaning that it’s most effective when the transmitter has direct line-of-site to the receiver. The TPCAST wireless Vive kit has the transmitter mounted on the user’s head to give it a direct view to the receiver, but there’s certainly times during room-scale VR play where the user may be turned away from the receiver with their head tilted at an angle that would break line of sight; the player’s hands could also get in the way, though it isn’t clear yet how these situations might impact the TPCAST device’s performance, mostly because we don’t know the recommended setup for the system which could possibly use multiple receivers or recommend a special placement to prevent transmission issues.

tpcast-battery-pack

Seen on the company’s site is also a concept sketch of what the battery connector and packs could look like. The company has shown some concept images of their product with a small head-worn battery, but also suggested that a larger battery is in the works that the user would wear in their pocket. The bigger battery is claimed to be able to run the Vive for 2-5 hours, and it looks like the system is made so that batteries can be quickly swapped.

A Reddit user who detailed some info of the device claims that when it comes to whether or not the wireless kit could be used for other headsets like the Oculus Rift, TPCAST “hints about this quite clearly.”

Skepticism about the device remains, but excitement at the prospect of a wireless high-end VR headset is palpable. We’re hoping to learn more before the unit begins shipping in Q1 2017.

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  • Get Schwifty!

    Be nice if it can work with other HMDs. If it adds 15 ms on top of the base 20, that’s a problem. I would bet it’s 15ms for certain and not on top.

    • George

      Recent development claims less than 2ms. I would think it is on top of the current 20ms>

  • Me

    Joy

  • tbraga14

    this may be of your interest: experiment.com/grants/graphics-and-virtualreality

  • Nicholas

    I don’t see any mention of 60GHz on their website? Previously they were claiming to have only 87Mbps, which is more 2.4GHz territory. Will wait and see what the reality is…

  • flavortang

    This sh!t gets my nipples hard enough to cut glass.

  • David Herrington

    If placing the wireless unit on top of your head is “safe,” then the best place to put the receiver is on the ceiling! This ensures direct line of sight for most regular games and motion.

    Also, please tell me Vive is already on track to putting this or something similar in gen 2.0 within the next year! ;)

    • Nein

      I think we will see many more details on v2 of the Vive but I don’t think it will be out in 2017.

  • The price isn’t too bad. I’d love to hear from users how well it works though.

  • yag

    Everybody is talking about latency but what about compression artefacts ? We can’t have too much artefacts in VR (because of the zoomed image, and because stereoscopy makes them even more noticable).

    • George

      Compression artifacts would be from compressed video, and not real time graphics rendering. I think you may be miss informed as to how images are actually displayed on these sets.

      • Bryan Ischo

        I think it is you who may be misinformed here. The graphics pipeline renders two 2d images to be displayed for each frame (one per eye) on the PC side. These 2d images and then compressed before being sent over the wireless network (because it’s faster to compress the images on the CPU and send fewer bits of compressed image data over the wireless link than it is to send a larger amount of uncompressed image data over the wireless link) and are decompressed on the HMD side before being displayed.

        Compression artifacts are not going to have the same effect on the same screen regions in each eye (because of slight differences in the images because of stereoscopy), and any difference between the images could be very noticeable.

        However, everything I have read says that they are not noticeable, so either they’re using a lossy compression algorithm with very few artifacts (which generally means “less good” compression), or possibly a lossless compression algorithm (which would produce ZERO compression artifacts), and relying on their high speed link to allow the larger number of bits to reach the HMD on time.

        Or, people are just lying about the artifacts not being noticeable.

        • Basiclife1

          There are different types of compression, lossy and lossless.

          MP3 is lossy – what you get out the other end will contain artifacts (although hopefully too small to detect). On the other hand, many forms of compression are lossless and guarantee the data output is binarily identical to the input.

          That said, I haven’t seen anything that says wireless systems are using compression. They’re much, much late rin the pipelinbe than you seem to think. The images are rendered, composited into a frame, which is streamed to the video port using the appropriate protocol (HDMI/DisplayPort).

          Then, the wireless box takes this signal and transmits it to the headset. If it were to perform any operations on the image itself, it would need to listen for a frame break, parse a whole frame, decode it, compess the image in a lossy fashion, transmit the data, decompress the image then re-encode it as an HDMI frame before sending it to the headset.

          That’s a ridiculously round-about way to reduce size. Far better to just use lossless compression on the HDMI signal (assuming you don’t have the bandwidth to transmit it raw). Less processing overhead, so less latency and less battery consumption.

          According to this HDMI Bandwidth calculator… https://k.kramerav.com/support/bwcalculator.asp

          2160×1200 @ 90Hz is roughly 233M Pixels/second and will require 7GBPs of bandwidth. The widely-used DEFLATE lossless compression method will give ratios on the order of 2:1 through 5:1 depending on the homogeneity of the data.

          So, we can probably transmit full-frame video in a lossless fashion for ~3-4GBPs.

          Now consider that 802.11/ad Wifi (60GHz, the same range these devices use) supports up to 7GBps tranmit rates.

          In short, it’s perfectly feasible that the video is being transmitted with no loss.

          I have no idea if that’s how it’s actually done, but the numbers appear to say it’s plausible.

          • Bryan Ischo

            You just said in 1000 words what I said in 100 in my third paragraph. But I do agree with you.

          • Basiclife1

            Not really… You’re talking about “visual artifacts” which can’t occur in lossless compression. Lossy compression is not possible at the point in the data pipeline where the wireless transmission takes place.

  • DougP

    Re: “whether or not the wireless kit could be used for other headsets like the Oculus Rift

    Yes, but as Facebook has repeatedly informed us – exclusives are a GOOD thing!
    So it’ll be good if this only works on the Vive. Or, not quite as good but still good news….if Rift users have to wait at least say 6mos or more after it’s been shipped to Vive owners, before they can order it.

    You know…. for the *benefit* of the VR industry – it’s all about the customers!

    • RationalThought

      Context is an amazing thing my friend. Them investing in games that would not be made OTHERWISE is a good thing, they request exclusivity for the money they invest for the game to get made. Likewise if if this is exclusive it would be fair because Valve/HTC invested in the company …..reason it exists as a product is likely because of them so ….exclusivity is understandable. Which is also why they haven’t addressed if it works for the Rift (even if it does, it’s not intended for them)

      • misha lvovsky

        yesss…. YESS Fuck You OCULUS EAT SHIT EXCLUSIVER FUCKK YESSS FINALLY WE HAVE AN EXCLUSIVE VIVE MASTER RACE FUCK FUCIAJUSKDHGFBUIKHDJFG BISKDEJLHBFIKHJBDGKLJSJHDFBGLKJSDFBGKLJSBFBGIDUFGHHKJSBFGIKJHFG

      • Basiclife1

        Making exclusives benefits them and nobody else. Who else cares if the game would never have been made if they can’t ever play it without proprietary hardware?

        The industry is in its infancy and it benefits _everyone_ to have high quality interchangeable games available. Facebook knows this and is quite happy to reap the benefits of Valve’s labour (and others). Conversely, rather than contribute anything to the industry themselves, they’re more interested in trying to create a closed-wall ecosystem, which is to the detriment of everyone else.

        In short, They’re more interested in their own greed than speeding the growth of the market. It’s short-sighted, self-serving and epitomises the company’s approach to -well- everything.

        • edge

          “Making exclusives benefits them and nobody else. Who else cares if the game would never have been made if they can’t ever play it without proprietary hardware?”

          I think you’re tailoring your reaction to reach a conclusion in spite of the facts. Why aren’t you crying about people who can’t afford VR-capable hardware, or have Macs and Linux, or don’t live in a country shipping VR, or people who don’t have electricity? “Who else cares if a bushman in Botswana can’t play it. It might as well have not been made!”

          Objectively speaking, a game made is better than a game unmade. I find that rather immutable and ridiculous that you’re even arguing it. For example, I’m not arguing Uncharted would be better off unmade because it’s only on PlayStation.

          Also, consider that many exclusivity agreements are expiring.

          Also, consider that you can still use Vive with Oculus Home.

          Also, consider your self-serving argument only serves to highlight how self-serving your view is. You clearly don’t care about anyone else outside of your own bubble, what you’re essentially accusing Facebook/Oculus of.

          • Basiclife1

            Sorry, what point are you trying to make? That because it’s not ubiquitous, it’s ok to fragment the tiny market that does exist?

            Objectively speaking, A game made with the intention of fragmenting the market is a detriment to everyone. Forcing people to choose which hardware to use based on content is what caused the console wars and held back gaming for a decade.

            Any platform exclusives (be they PC, XBox, PS, etc) have a (marginally) defensible position in that cross-platform development is expensive and complex, but even so, they’re a detriment to the consumer (either forcing you to buy multiple consoles to consume all the content you want, or preventing you from paying for a product you want).

            Oculus have no such excuse – they’re intentionally trying to make the market worse. To do so with a community that was gathered together by the promise of an open platform is somewhere between arrogant and incompetent.

            Plus, leave out the personal attacks, they’re petty and pointless. Discuss the issue on its merits (if you’re able to do so).