A UK firm is making a bid for the untethered virtual reality headset space with a new headset called AuraVisor, a self-contained immersive device which packs processing power and display into one headset. The device hit Kickstarter on Monday and has already passed 50% of its £100,000 funding goal in around 24 hours.

Wires, they suck! This is one aspect of the first wave of consumer VR hardware that is unavoidably low tech, PC based virtual reality needs cables to deliver the low latency ‘off headset’ rendered visuals that are so important for a compelling, high-spec VR experience. This is the price you pay for cutting-edge visuals, at least for the moment.

AuraVisor Kickstarter

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The alternatives are of course mobile VR devices such as Gear VR. But the Samsung mobile phones powering that device were not built for specifically to be used with a virtual reality device and are currently compromised as a result.

The other way of course is to design and build a VR headset dedicated to portability with no concessions to the mobile phone market. AuraVisor is a new VR headset that places rendering horsepower, tracking sensors and display into one untethered package, free unencumbered by distracting cables. The device hit Kickstarter yesterday and, thanks to some high-profile early publicity, has already passed the 50% mark of its £100k funding goal.

The project is lead by James Talbot, CEO of Damson Audio, a company specialising in unique audio hardware for cyclists, headphones that don’t occlude sounds from the environment.

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AuraVisor packs a quad-core Rockchip RK3288 with a Mali GPU, common in mobile devices such as tablets. The headset claims a 100 degree diagonal FOV, 5 hour battery life and a 1080p display running at 60Hz. Unlike all other primary rivals, the device currently uses an LCD display, which means no low persistence, however the Kickstarter page states this may change. Everything is orchestrated by by an Android operating system, access via a ‘simple smart scrolling’ GUI. IPD adjustment and focal control are present on the device too.

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The AuraVisor ships with a ‘virtual reality system Bluetooth Game Controller’ which as far as we can make out is based around a regular, wireless gamepad with no motion sensing tech onboard.

Its direct competitors are slim right now but AuraVisor certainly isn’t first to the untethered VR table. Gameface Labs have been demonstrating their own prototypes (the latest of which we tried recently) for some time now. That said, the only way to get your hands on hardware from them right now is to apply for early access via their web portal here.

See Also: GameFace “Guarantees” Latency Equal to Gear VR, Mark 6 Prototype Field of View Impresses

By contrast, AuraVisor is promising an April 2016 delivery date for its backers of over £135 – although as ever with Kickstarter campaigns, especially those involving hardware, this may well slip.

AuraVisor is an interesting entry to a subcategory of the VR hardware space which is currently sparsely populated as yet which offers some significant benefits over its mobile phone and PC based rivals. We’ll be going hands on with the device in a couple of days and will report back with our experiences.

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  • bji

    Too many compromises just to get untethered:

    – Weak GPU (although, to be honest, I don’t mind this so much; we have a long way to go to in creating fun initial VR experiences with low powered GPUs before we’re really going to need heavy hitting GPU power for very sophisticated VR games)
    – 60 Hz refresh
    – LCD screen
    – No hand sensing controllers
    – 1080p display (DK2 resolution)

    Honestly I think someone should just design a $50 stand that can hold VR cables well above your head, with adjustable tension to keep the cables out of the way but still let you move around. That would cheaply solve the problem of wires.

    I think the design of such a stand wouldn’t even be that hard. You’d have a wheel that the cable would feed up and around, that could itself rotate on its axis so that it could always face “towards” you. Then you’d have a tension mechanism on the other side of the wheel that would apply a configurable constant but gentle pull, so that as you moved away, the cable would extend out, and then as you moved back, it would gently be reeled back in.

    The only disadvantage to such an arrangement is that you couldn’t rotate around freely, you’d always have to rotate back to your original position eventually or else the cord would get tangled. However, if someone could just design a mechanism that would allow the cord to swivel … then even that problem can go away.

    • kalqlate

      Agreed on the compromises. In fact, the top video does a healthy bit of false advertising by showing the first girl able to use her bare hands to interact with the virtual environment

      Regarding wire-free, high-quality VR: Fear not! Perhaps not this first generation, but certainly within the offerings of the second generation, newer, more powerful, less power-hungry chips form Intel, NVidia, AMD, and others will allow Rift CV1 quality to go wire-free.

      • Nathan Casey

        Rift cv1 was definitely not going wire free XD it has like 10 wires lmao

        • kalqlate

          Feel free to flag this response as well if it hurts your puny ego. :D

          Here, let me help with your comprehension:

          Perhaps not this first generation, but certainly within the offerings of the second generation, newer, more powerful, less power-hungry chips form Intel, NVidia, AMD, and others will allow Rift CV1 quality [meaning devices that ARE NOT THE RIFT CV1 but reach THE QUALITY SPECS OF THE CV1] to go wire-free.

          • Nathan Casey

            By your use of as well I’m amusing you think I flagged your post or something? There are already “Rift CV1 quality specs” hmds. I hate how people praise it when they think it was going to be like a 4k display or some shit but when it comes out at 2160 by 1200 it’s suddenly so much better than 1080p. Other hmds have positional tracking as well. So what better specs does it have that some wireless offerings dont? And by the time the rift comes out in half a fucking year there will be even more advanced wireless devices coming out within that time.

          • kalqlate

            That’s not praise. If you haven’t noticed, the Rift, being one of the early entries and most financed and most publicised, is used as a defacto benchmark. So, we are all in agreement that the Rift is not the end-all, be-all.

            Regarding the flagging: Sorry… someone may have clicked the flag button by accident.

    • Nathan Casey

      Yeah 1080p isn’t the best but many reviewers have said the screen door isn’t that noticable. 60hz isn’t bad because I used the first gear vr with the note 4 screen and it was just fine. The GPU is irrelevant because it will be using android vr games and using the pc gpu when using the pc.. Obviously. How many games will use hand sensing controllers anyways?… Not many. Either way I’m sure you can add a leap motion or some other hang sensing controller to this if you so choose.

  • Don Gateley

    By the time this actually delivers, if it does so at all, its display will be hopelessly out of date among other things. People need to realize that any hardware KS project will take at least a year and probably two before they see it, regardless of the presented timeline, and should think about how competitive it will be at that time.

    • kalqlate

      You are generally correct regarding this product’s competitiveness according to its projected specs and delivery date, and also about KickStarter hardware product timelines in general. However, this is an Android VR kit. There are already multiple sources for the hardware bits, and Google has already supplied the open source VR software for Android. This company will just tweak it a bit for their particular hardware and maybe produce a game or two exclusive to their device. Therefore, their projected delivery date is quite reasonable and doable.

      • Nathan Casey

        But it will also do very good as a pc vr hmd