HTC plans to offer a wireless upgrade accessory for the Vive created by TPCAST. Launching in early 2017 with pre-orders starting Friday, HTC claims the device will eliminate the direct connection to the PC without any noticeable difference in latency or gameplay.

Reported first by UploadVR, the battery-powered “tether-less VR upgrade kit” is being made by TPCAST, a company which HTC bought into as part of its ‘Vive X‘ investment program. The device is listed alongside other official Vive accessories on the Chinese HTC Vive website.

The tranmission module of the TPCAST accessory seen sporting HDMI and USB ports
The tranmission module of the TPCAST accessory seen sporting HDMI and USB ports

The TPCAST wireless Vive upgrade kit mounts to the existing Vive headstrap with a pocket in the back which holds a small battery that powers the headset and a top transmission module which communicates with the host computer to send tracking data and receive the resulting image; it isn’t clear yet if the device will be able to transmit the full 90 FPS framerate that the Vive natively runs at, or if the headset would operate at a lower frequency to fit into the available bandwidth.

The battery on the back can last around 1.5 hours of gameplay, though there’s plans to sell a bigger battery at a later date which would be stowed in the user’s pocket rather than mounted on the head. According to Alvin W. Graylin, China Regional President of Vive at HTC, the TCPAST wireless Vive accessory “greatly improve[s]” the overall Vive experience by eliminating the cable with no “noticeable difference” in visual performance and gameplay, UploadVR reports

Wireless video transmission technology has been around for a long time, but major VR companies like Oculus and HTC Vive had consistently said that existing technologies were not up to the task of delivering low enough latency and high enough quality for use in high-end virtual reality headsets. With that in mind, HTC’s endorsement of TPCAST’s solution is a big deal, one which could foreshadow future Vive headsets with the tech built right in. Valve, HTC’s close collaborator on the Vive, also recently announced they had invested in Nietro, a company building wireless VR video transmission technology, though that company has yet to announce any consumer ready products.

Second-gen Lighthouse Chip Could Improve Tracking, Reduce Cost of HTC Vive 2

Pre-orders of the TPCAST wireless Vive upgrade kit start via the HTC Vive Chinese site on Friday, 11/11 at 7AM PT for 1,499 RMB (~$220 USD) and can ship internationally, says UploadVR; the accessory is not yet listed or sold by HTC’s Vive operation in the US. The release date for the TPCAST device is said to start in Q1 2017.

On the minds of many is surely whether or not the TPCAST solution can be used with the Oculus Rift or other PC-based VR headsets; right now the answer isn’t clear but we’ve reached out to HTC for comment. Last month Oculus demonstrated a different approach to tether-free VR; instead of transmitting information wirelessly to and from a host PC, the headset did all of the computing on-board and used an integrated camera array for positional tracking.

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  • James Friedman

    Woah, game changer if it works good!

  • Very curious about with which performance this will work, but this is a HUGE announcement… and 220$ is not that much…

  • Dobba

    This is great, but remember; it’s not who is first, but who is best at the implementation and the battery life will be the upper most limit of its life. Hopefully this is a good start but will wait for reviews. Curious that it’s only being touted on their Chinese website and not internationally.

    • polysix

      With VR it is who is first. It signals a win for ALL of VR. There is no way this news is anything but great. Please stop being a debby downer/rift fanboy and see the big picture here. THIS confirms that WIRELESS VR is a thing, NOW, and it’ll get better rapidly. The real win is this signals that we can expect even better wireless tech for GEN 2, which is something we thought we’d be waiting till gen 3/4 for! Do you understand that?

      This isn’t meant to be perfect or the final end game, it’s a starting shot fired by the company and it’s better than companies sitting on tech for years to trickle feed you nerfed versions (Facebook/Oculus)

      • Dobba

        Not being a ‘Debby Downer’ and I’m actually a VIVE owner so misplaced assumptions on both counts but thanks for the patronising tone to your reply. It’s knee jerk comments like this that make VR users look bad.

        • Bryan Ischo

          Agreed, unnecessarily patronizing, not to mention the fact that until we have this in our hands and it is consumer tested, we have no idea if this “confirms” that wireless vr is a thing “now”.

          It definitely is a good reason to be optimistic though.

      • Get Schwifty!

        No, its not about all being first really, you might want think that but that’s not what the numbers of adoption really reflect outside of bleeding edge adopters.

        To say wireless is a “thing” now is not that big a deal, all the manufacturers recognize that wireless is the eventual goal, the question is supporting high bandwidth for resolution and a quality experience. It is nice to see HTC putting out what is effectively a public prototype, but don’t kid yourself that Oculus and others aren’t thinking about it and working on solutions in the back room.

        Accusing FB/Oculus of trickle feeding of nerfed versions is a joke, they are building a public platform in a less than a years time, hardly a trickle, they just took their time putting together what they felt is a good solution. Recall the wireless inside/out tracking Santa Cruz prototype from Oculus? I think its pretty clear that history is repeating itself; HTC is pushing stuff out while FB/Oculus takes its time to create a better value-to-functionality solution and releases a more mature product. That isn’t fanboy-ism, its just the facts of the matter.

        This over-romanticizing of a company (HTC in this case) is every bit as bad as the blind devotion some have to Apple or other companies. its good they are working on a solution to the problem they have of the cumbersome cables (and by most reviews it is deemed a worse experience than that of wearing a Rift). You can view it a merely an advance, or you can look at the bigger picture that the current cabling is a deficit in the design and they are taking the opportunity to start moving in the direction all HMDs will, but it is more imperative they move first.

  • polysix

    Amazing and welcome news, for all of VR. Anyone who nay-says this is clearly a biased fanboy who can’t see the big picture and how positive this is for ALL of VR regardless of where your ‘loyalty’ lies. Gen 2 with better wireless than this is now a real possibility! WOW!

    Also battery life? so what, slip another battery in so you can swap them when one is dead, or plug your cable in for when you don’t need it, not exactly a deal breaker. 90 minutes on a single charge is great considering. And in active (roomscale) VR 90 minutes is often a good time before you need a break anyway. Seated VR for hours on end can still plug in while battery charges.

    • OSM

      Anyone who nay-says is a fanboy? Maybe they’re just concerned about all the obvious problems like battery life, latency and weight.

      • Get Schwifty!

        ikr… I am very excited to hear that HTC is doing this, as it will pressure everyone to look into it. But that doesn’t mean there might not be potential interference, range and performance issues initially. Not really worried about brain damage, it’s non-ionizing radiation after all.

        Someone mentioned concerns over FTC approval, I cannot imagine them having an issue with it. I think as a solution there will be lower bandwidth solutions for wired and better resolutions for wired for the foreseeable future.

        That Valve is investing money geared to help HTC ultimately pretty much also makes clear they are tight partners and effectively a “platform” as I have stated before. Not trying to deviate into that discussion, but you would have to be blind not to see the issues surrounding that for an outside player like Oculus in regard to content distribution and market share and their collaboration is obvious.

  • Frank Taylor

    Umm, I wonder if this will past FCC approval and be available in the US? The article only mentions use in China. And, of course, the related question is whether the frequencies and power will damage the brain. Seriously.

  • Mat Harding

    Interesting to see how this compares to the 3000 euros ‘Scalable Graphics’ solution recently released.

  • wowgivemeabreak

    Like the idea in theory but battery life is weak.

    Hopefully it works without any issues and this will become the norm for VR sets in the future….but with better battery life. There is no question that wireless headsets would be much more convenient than wired.

    Kudos to these two companies for this.

  • beestee

    I have a feeling the range may be pretty short, and devices that could conflict with the radios will have to be kept off/away from the setup, further necessitating the need for a dedicated space to do room scale VR. It is exciting that this is going to be available so soon though.

    It needs to start somewhere, and at least it will be tested and improved upon before Gen 2 headsets become available, because this situation could become more complex very quickly as resolution increases.

    Personally I feel that shared processing (see HoloLens) will prove to be a more robust solution to this, where some of the latency sensitive processing can be handled by a low power SoC on/in the headset itself, positional tracking being the most obvious place to start. Then more of the wireless bandwidth can be dedicated to pixel streaming from a desktop/laptop.

    NVidia or AMD should step up here. Their hardware is the last link in video compute chain and if they can solve wireless pixel streaming efficiently as a direct solution from their GPUs, then they will win the majority of the market over quickly.

    • bob cost us

      screw your feelings

  • ummm…


  • ummm…

    so i can’t buy it here in the usa? i want to preorder it. can somebody clarify? im not so smart. i guess i shouldn’t have picked the United States option when i followed the link?

  • MainFragger

    I tried to order it, but the site is in chinese, and the order screen does not seem fully enabled..

  • J.C.

    The short battery life isn’t so bad, and this is a bit of a stopgap before actual Vive2 comes with it built in. What I’d like to see in a second version is not only a battery pack in the pocket, but a secondary, short-charge battery in the device itself. This way you could swap batteries without the headset actually turning off. Currently, if the headset disconnects for any reason, games and even steam/windows have no idea what to do and the machine falls into a state that only a reboot fixes.

    Personally, I think this is a great first shot at wireless Big Muscle VR (versus cellphone VR). All that’s left to solve now is reasonably realistic locomotion, as being able to walk an “unlimited” distance would pretty much end complaints about immersion. Well, except for people who think we shouldn’t need controllers in our hands, but those people clearly have no interest in VR gaming.

    • DiGiCT Ltd

      The 2nd gen will use the newer sensor chips which also reduce energy usage, this will let the battery work longer too.

  • beestee

    Sold out in 18 minutes and apparently only available to proceed to checkout with China based billing and shipping info.

    Looking forward to reviews in Q1 2017.

  • Mr. New Vegas

    1. Large battery attached to your head is a BAD idea, if it explodes you guranteed to have extreme burns or die.
    2. If it only re-transmits signals and has no sensors, it can be used with Oculus, Looks like you connect USB and HDMI to it and it send it to your PC. we will see when it comes out.

    • Klasodeth

      People hold phones with Li-Ion batteries right next to their heads all the time, yet we don’t have massive casualties. Despite the unusually high failure rate of the batteries in the Samsung Galaxy Note 7, it hasn’t manage to rack up any fatalities. Being in a moving car carries a far higher risk of injury or death than a cellphone does, and a cellphone is more likely to kill a person due to distraction than due to its battery.

      • Mr. New Vegas

        its not the same thing as attaching it to your head with rubber straps that you cant easily remove if something happens.
        OH, what about the wireless signal, its has to be low latency and high bandwidth for video, thats like microgaling your head

        I rather have wired VR

        • Klasodeth

          Because your reflexes are faster than an explosion? For the purposes of an explosion, holding the battery by your head is no different than wearing the battery on it. It’s still in contact range. On the other hand, if you’re talking about a “mere” case of combustion, pulling a headset off of one’s head is a lot easier than pulling a phone out of one’s pocket, and people aren’t going up in flames for sitting on their phones–even when people were having a problem with bending iPhones.

          As for wireless, latency and bandwidth are indeed serious concerns for wireless VR. I agree that there’s no room for compromise there. Latency and bandwidth have to be as good as wired for it to be worth having. Technically bandwidth can be less than wired if good enough compression is used, but of course that’s likely to increase latency, so there are no easy solutions there.

  • DiGiCT Ltd

    HTC is known to be ahead in tech company, just look into their android history on how many features their phones already had before other came up with it.
    The problem with HTC however is that they are not so much commercialized like samsung, apple and comapnies like that making lots of shows and marketing.
    They instead suddenly just come with a device and just let people enjoy it, as it is the people themselves which are the best marketing, by using their devices.
    Google now working together with HTC for their pixel phones comes down to a similar reason, they need a comapny which is known to be able to solve challenges on new technologies, HTC is simply one of them in the world.

    If you just look back on how much this comapny already did for VR since their launch in May, its amazing.
    Thank you HTC for being there for us, listening to what we want to see and make it for us so we can enjoy our times even more !
    I am looking forward to see the next gen Vive, as all those improvements already in 1 package is just awesome.

  • JordanViray

    Looking forward to this but “no ‘noticeable difference’ in visual performance and gameplay” might be a red flag. It’s probably best to wait until we can find out what sort of latency and or compression tradeoffs were made.

  • Nein

    This is great. But this sounds like a really forced unpolished move from HTC. Also not cheap AT ALL. I assume it’s so the hardcore early adopters can wank around for a while and serve as guinea pigs for the revised version. I don’t think anybody wants to have more stuff stuck to their heads. Also raises the premium package for the Vive to a whopping $1000.

    Great great insight as to what the revised Vive v2 will look like though. But giving an educated guess, this coupled with the reduced chip manufacturing rumors, won’t be enough to budge the price below $800.

    • Get Schwifty!

      its the same play they do on their phones…and the wand design, just push something out half cooked to grab market share. Not saying there shouldn’t be incremental upgrading, but its the same strategy Samsung uses as well to grab market share, but they do it because it is easy and it works. To me (and others) its a poor value proposition over time, but if you just want the tech now… well, there is a solution on hand. I would also argue there is nothing “innovative” about going wireless… everyone in the industry knows that it is where it is headed and the eventual outcome. Just pushing to do it first with what could be sub-par performance though is justified concern at this stage. But, it gets them market share and being seen as a “leader” so they do it. They are a hardware manufacturer intent on selling volume, as opposed to Oculus who is developing VR as part of an overall strategy, where the hardware is frankly incidental to the whole thing. Not saying one is better than the other from that perspective, but they have two very different agendas.

      That all being said, I am happy that it puts pressure on Oculus to push their wireless forward, no doubt they have prototypes in play with it, but this makes them have to focus a bit more on it now. Would love to see both Vive and Rift use a Sony-style HMD design, wireless with Touch-style controllers for their V2 devices.

  • Definitely interested! Little concerned though about interference, even more WiFi can be hit or miss sometimes. Also, this is a stop-gap measure. You’ll only get a few years use out of it. All VR in 5 years will be done in-headset. We’ll look back to these tethered headsets and laugh!

    (and, maybe by then, Nintendo will get back into HMD’s, and we’ll see the GameboyVR)

    • Foreign Devil

      Hope not, because it will take 5 years to get the graphical power you have now in a desktop PC into small enough fanless components to wear on your head. So you’ll end up with all in one unit with graphics power that is no better than what you saw 5 years ago.

      • Let’s get real about graphics: It’s over.

        We have already reached such a level with graphics that companies can’t afford enough man power to produce anything nicer looking. Artists are at their max. Really, the difference between a PS3 and PS4 game, when it comes to graphics, is nominal. It’s a little sharper and a bit more detail. It’s not a huge leap. It’s CERTAINLY not the leap from PS2 to PS3. 5 Years from now games won’t look dramatically better, they’ll just look a tiny bit clearer.

        Chip makers are already WELL AWARE of the limits of game makers. Chip makers don’t focus on raw power anymore, they focus on power efficiency. It’s all about making desktop and mobile chips the same. It’s a tiny bit more power at an astronomically lower power usage. Going forward, all desktop and mobile graphics will become the same. The Desktop will just have a larger screen and full-size peripherals.

        If it wasn’t for VR and 4k, there would NO reason for anything to upgrade past nVidia or ATI’s video cards from 2 years ago. Procedurally generated games *might* draw more power, but otherwise, we’re at the point of maximum saturation. Graphics today are insane, photo-realistic, and insanely detailed. In fact, so much so that it’s just not humanly possible to make them any better. Being a 3D modeler myself, I can tell you there’s not much left to do. If anything, more power just let’s you make sloppier models, by skipping efficiency work. It makes the artist’s work easier, but you, the end user, sees no difference.

        And if you need any more proof how little the end user cares about SUPER DETAILED models, go look at Pixel art. People want to see bold art styles! High polygon counts mean nothing these days. Take a look at Bound or The Last Guardian, on the PS4. Either of them could have been on the PS3 with little loss in quality. The Last Guardian was originally *made* for the PS3!

        • Get Schwifty!

          If we are planning on today’s graphics pushing 4K resolutions ain’t no way that is all going to be done with all the graphic bells and whistles in a headset-only design in five years. The reason the wireless development is so important is that the displays will likely outpace the ability of the on-HMD chips to deliver the best content, the only way to do that will be rendering processing on a system then transmitting wireless at high frequency the data to an HMD.

          The issue really affecting chip makers is not artists, in fact I don’t believe that is even a heavily perceived factor, it is about the processes to produce high volumes of chips at lower nano-meter levels. One of the reasons Nvidia’s latest boards are staying high in price is the problem of producing them with the lower nano-meter processes for instance. The power emphasis is two-sided, the “green” marketing and the fact that mobile computing is where all the growth is, not big honking desktops of yesteryear.

          I agree with you completely that if it weren’t for VR and 4K chips from two years or so would suffice, but the reality is VR is going to force higher levels of resolution over time as the push is to “true VR” where the eye (and mind one day) cannot discern the difference from real viewing to VR viewing. That is going to take a LOT of horsepower and bandwidth, and I think artists are going to actually have to change processes to develop content. I see a day where games routinely use the same processes films do, then the artistry is in the addition of effects and manipulation of digitized forms.

        • Slin

          While you may be right about it from the asset side (especially considering some CGI in movies), it is still very possible to produce a lot better looking results, if we had the hardware.
          Just compare what can be done in offline rendering to what current games offer. There is still a very visible difference. Todays realtime rendering does a lot of effects like local reflections, ambient occlusion, light scattering in skin and antialiasing as post processes in screenspace at a lack of quality compared to doing it right. Those local reflections can only reflect things that are visible on the screen and have to somehow hide the fact that they can’t show more than tat. Ambient occlusion tends to flicker, introduces halos around objects and has issues at screen edges. The light scattering is just completely fake and can look better than without, but still quite fake. Current antialising approaches often introduce more issues then they fix. FXAA tends to blur too little or too much and temporal antialiasing doesn’t do much antialiasing at all while the image changes.

          Also for good VR we need higher resolution displays, which again will need more powerful rendering hardware (and makes video streaming even more complicated).
          Did you notice that most VR games still don’t have the same graphics quality as none VR games? That’s because most of todays consumer PC hardware isn’t able to do that yet.
          At least for VR more resolution isn’t just about making things sharper, but also about making the experience more comfortable.

          But my main point is: It is absolutely humanly possible to push realtime graphics a lot further than it is right now, even at same resolutions, if only the hardware was capable enough. And that’s just by changes in rendering tech. And while some none photo realistic games may be successful, so are photo realistic ones and both can potentially benefit from more power in a way that is visible to the user.
          Is it really needed? Probably not. But it will make highend games (especially in VR) more immersive and that’s something I am still looking forward to.

          • First off, most of the 3D packages I know about already allow you to use your GPU to render scenes at, or near, real-time. These issues with blooming, blurring, and ect, could all be addressed with better math. Graphics formulas are being improved upon all the time.

            As for VR game fidelity, I think you’re getting a skewed picture. Most of these VR games you see now were originally developed for the DK1 and DK2 on the previous generation, or even two, of GPU’s. They were trying to get 90fps off a GeForce 960 or less. The graphics in Sony’s PS VR Worlds are amazing! The PS4 has quite a bit less power then a GeForce 980 or better, but it’s total power was a known variable, so they could aim development to fully take advantage of it.

            By undershooting the future power available, many existing VR games developed on the PC have artificially hampered themselves. I, myself, had a lovely project underway that I abandon several years ago, simply because I couldn’t get a high enough framerate on my old hardware. People who tried it poopooped it because it couldn’t do 90fps on a GeForce 880. I run the project on current suggested hardware specs and it runs like a dream, but time was lost and my interest has waned.

            People are vastly overestimating what hardware is necessary for good VR, and holding back on working on good content because they believe it’s not “Good Enough”. The power is there. What we’re currently lacking is good games, not raw power.

        • Foreign Devil

          Interesting response. I also work as a 3D artist. The benchmark target for graphics is, as always the current generation of feature films.

          We are almost there. But in VR a lot of resource saving cheats do not work well. For example normal maps do not look good in VR. You either need to use diffuse mapping for surface relief detail or actually have a high enough poly count to actually sculpt or scan it in. Also grass and foliage as planes with alpha maps facing camera breaks down in VR. You need real geo with thickness for each blade a grass and pebble. We haven’t plateaued yet.

          • Come on now. You know for a fact that well used Normal Maps look great in VR. How many gorgeous Unreal Engine corridors have you seen since Dk1? I’ve seen MANY. A little normal mapping here and there can make them seem very realistic in VR.

            Well you can’t depend on them for large extrusions that are close up to the player, for low-depth extrusions, floors, more enemies with any range, Normal maps work great!

            Flat plane grass works fine as well, as long as again, it’s not put too close to the user’s view.

            The only issue in VR is that it’s easier to get up-close to things thanks to positional tracking. Easy fix is to just keep them distant.

            None of this though really applies my original point:
            — Good graphics aren’t the same as raw GPU power —

            The use-case for the kind of extreme power you are talking about isn’t nearly as large as you think it is. It’s actually rather small. We can already do photo-realism at well over 90fps. I’m trying to picture this grass-crawling simulator you are suggesting, but I can’t. If the grass doesn’t come up to my eyeballs, when would I ever see it? Football simulators are so good, it’s a struggle to figure out if you’re seeing a real-life game or not until those HUD graphics appear. If the game is Isometric/top-down, the need for raw power goes right out the window.

            We need to think less about raw power and more about good design. We already have enough power now to do anything we desire. The limits are more our mindset then existing technical limitations.

    • G-man

      in 5 years headsets will have multiple times the resolution. in headset processing will always be under powered compared to a full desktop. doesnt matter if we can do good enough, games will get better. headset will get better and so a computer you starp to your head isnt going to cut it for the bestt ofo the best games. plenty of people will probably run a mobile headset but it will be a different market. also you will only get a limited use out of this wireless if you upgrade to a new heeadset. someone could use this on the ecurrent headset as long as they want just as i can plug in 20 year old monitor into a pc now.

  • Badelhas

    Will you be receiving a review unit? When can we expect a review from RoadtoVR?