A consortium representing many of VR’s most prominent players—NVIDIA, AMD, Valve, Oculus, and Microsoft—have backed a new connector standard called VirtualLink which the companies say was “developed to meet the connectivity requirements of current and next-generation virtual reality (VR) headsets.”

Today the newly christened consortium revealed VirtualLink, an “open industry standard” which is an “Alternate Mode” of USB Type-C, the newest type of USB plug. The purpose of VirtualLink, say the companies, is to not only condense VR headset plugs down to a single, thin cable, but also to meet the needs of next-gen headsets.

The group says that the single VirtualLink connector offers four high-speed HBR3 DisplayPort lanes (which are “scalable for future needs”), a USB3.1 data channel for on-board cameras, and up to 27 watts of power. The standard is said to be “purpose-built for VR,” being optimized for latency and the needs of next-generation headsets.

Most major tethered headsets today require two or three plugs on the end of the cable which need to be plugged in. The Rift, for instance, has one HDMI plug and one USB plug. The Vive has one DisplayPort plug, one USB plug, and a separate power plug that needs to connect to a wall outlet.

The VirtualLink connector aims to reduce these plugs down to a single USB-C connector capable of the VirtualLink mode. The group says that the single, simple connector will make it easier to connect VR headsets to smaller form-factor devices like slim laptops which may lack full-sized USB and display ports.

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Interested companies can request an advanced overview of the upcoming VirtualLink 1.0 specification on the official website.

At present it isn’t clear where the VirtualLink port will actually be found when it first becomes available. Current VR headsets plug their display connectors directly into the GPU for video output and separately connect over USB to the motherboard for data I/O. A VirtualLink connector built into the GPU would make sense considering that’s where the image rendering is happening, but then the GPU would be responsible for the extra task of transferring data I/O to the motherboard and back. Conversely, a VirtualLink connector on the motherboard would ostensibly need to pipe data from the GPU through the motherboard before reaching the connector and the headset.

We reached out to the consortium to inquire about this but they weren’t ready to share such details at this time. A prior rumor however suggested that future NVIDIA GPUs would include a new VR-specific connector, which may very well have been referring to VirtualLink.

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Ben is the world's most senior professional analyst solely dedicated to the XR industry, having founded Road to VR in 2011—a year before the Oculus Kickstarter sparked a resurgence that led to the modern XR landscape. He has authored more than 3,000 articles chronicling the evolution of the XR industry over more than a decade. With that unique perspective, Ben has been consistently recognized as one of the most influential voices in XR, giving keynotes and joining panel and podcast discussions at key industry events. He is a self-described "journalist and analyst, not evangelist."
  • Lucidfeuer

    As long as it’s an open consortium, ie. the connector is not proprietary, then sure, a single universal VR cable connexion is a thing as long as it also has MHL-like charging capabilities….because of course, we’d need such cable mainly in the case when needing to charge the headset while being tethered to a specific PC when otherwise wireless will do…

    • Jistuce

      Any base station needs a video connection, because you can’t push high-resolution-high-framerate video over plain USB. The advantage of a single connector for data, power, and video is as valid for a wireless transceiver as it is for a tethered headset.

      • Lucidfeuer

        Not sure I understand. Since HDMI can’t do data, there is a need for a new connector, BUT it shouldn’t detract from the need for wireless tethering which however is not about bandwidth or even resolution but compression and encoding (since it won’t be capable of handling raw output like a cable, for at least a decade).

        I’m just saying that while this single connector is a good thing and could even be practical for more than VR, this shouldn’t detract from wireless efforts.

        • Jistuce

          My point is that this connector doesn’t detract from wireless efforts, and compliments them nicely. And, in fact, it is an ideal connector for a wireless base station. (Well, as ideal as anything using USB-C can be. It is fragile and increasingly prone to confusion as more implementations with different feature sets appear.)

          • Lucidfeuer


        • I believe, there was a HDMI with integrated USB3, LAN an power up to 100W.

          • Lucidfeuer

            It’s possible there was, probably something ridiculously impractical to manufacte therefor priced.

  • ale bro

    this sounds as though it would be perfect for Pimax 8K X, rather than the two cables Pimax have been talking about it

    • kontis

      It may not have enough bandwidth for PimaX 8K X (they would have to use DiplayPort’s compression, DCS). But it has more than enough bandwidth to support future, properly designed “8K” (4K per eye) or even “12K” headsets with foveated transport.

      • JJ

        and thats why the Pimax is a scam. Nobody could run it even if it did work which it douesnt.

        • Sandy Wich

          Pimax isn’t a scam. Albeit it’s quality may not end up meeting the expectations of it’s consumers and it’s marketing name is outright ridiculous, it’s still a working product that you’ll be able to purchase and receive warranty for.

  • Zerofool

    Yes, this totally fits with the rumors of the “new connector” on the next gen Nvidia cards, we should know in a month or so.
    This is a nice development, it could pave the way to universal wireless adapters which transmit the standardized signal.
    I’d like to see Google also joining the party, and contributing with their research on processing and transmitting images when foveated rendering techniques are used, with many of the steps to reconstruct the final image done on the headset itself, freeing compute resources (on the PC) and reducing required bandwidth and perceived latency, while somewhat increasing HMD complexity.

    • kontis

      Google has nothing to contribute here.

      They will never make a PC peripheral. Why would they care about an interface that connects an HMD to a PC? Even their insane resolution research was for Android Mobile VR.

      Their work in foveated transfer was trivial – there wasn’t anything novel in their approach.

      • Andrew Jakobs

        Who says you need to connect it to a pc? That’s your closeminded thinking.

  • Big step for easier VR setup. Exciting!

  • dk

    come to think of it a video card providing data and power over usb will be petty funky ….I wonder if it’s all through the pcie port or if u have to plug the internal usb mobo header to the video card or something funny like that
    also this will be good for ordinary monitors ….power/usbgub/video/sound over one cable with usbc connector

    • G-man

      isnt everyone waiting on a new pci e connector standard too? maybe that will actually happen

      • dk

        hmm then u will need a new mobo too…. I haven’t heard of a new pcie standard except newer gens having more bandwidth and more lanes …..but I guess it can all go through the pcie ……maybe more pins from the psu

  • JasonBSteele

    Dissappointed that Next-gen isn’t considered wireless!

    • dk

      it’s wireless for additional 300-400

      • G-man

        yeah and the other $300-400

    • FriendlyCard

      Wireless would be great indeed, EXCEPT: The amount of data over wireless would be massive – I wouldn’t be strapping a 5G device to my head, unless you fancy serious health issues.

      • kontis

        VR requires very high frequency for its bandwidth, like 60 Ghz. At this frequency even a sheet of paper completely blocks the photons, so no worries – your hair, skin and skull will be a super ultra impenetrable shield. You can try it with a flashlight – it’s very similar.

        • Sandy Wich

          I’ve read the same as well, and although I’m not certain there is genuine long term testing of this, “There may be, I’ve never looked that deep”, we live in a world full of network connections running through our bodies. Just carry your cellphone around, use wireless headphones, stand by your microwave. Idk.

          Hope what researchers say is right though. XD

        • Caven

          All good points, and of course people love to forget that the 60GHz transmitter goes on the wall or ceiling, not on your head. Never mind the fact that dumping 60GHz into the skull would be a complete waste of energy, so ti’s better to direct it away from the head instead of into it.

      • Caven

        Why do so many people seem to have so much trouble understanding that the RECEIVER is what goes on the headset, not the TRANSMITTER? Freaking out over a 5GHz or 60GHz receiver is like blaming your ears for dangerously loud noises.

        If you have the transmitter on your head, your wireless setup has been installed completely wrong and would be completely unusable as a wireless device.

        • ArSh

          Video, yes. But you’re forgetting the HMD still has to transmit low-latency tracking data. It’s not high bandwidth, but it is there.

          • Andrew Jakobs

            But the data from the camera’s is.

          • Caven

            Oh, I’m fully aware of that. It’s the people who are suddenly worried about 60GHz who have forgotten they have have been “irradiating” their hands and face the whole time. Even with a wired headset those people have been exposing themselves to at least three transmitters the whole time, one of which is right in front of their eyes. The Vive and Oculus controllers have always communicated with the headset, not with the PC.

          • G-man

            what does any of that matter. the transmitter for a wireless headset has to be sending particles out that are hitting the reciever. which you have to be near. so unless you are somewhere where the headset gets no signal then you are being his by the particles. theres no point n a reciever if its not recieivng the signal so either way you have to be in the area the high frequency wifi is in. so if someone is worried about the signal then its not that the thing emitting the signal is on their head, its that their head in the place the signal exists in.

          • Caven

            It’s true that they didn’t specifically mention an emitter, but if they really understood what was going on, why bother specifying a device on the head at all? A TPCast transmitter is still going to broadcast the same signal to everyone in the room, regardless of whether or not anyone is even wearing the receiver. On top of that, the person was specifically concerned about 5GHz. So many wireless routers, access points, and mobile devices support 5Ghz now that the additional exposure to 5GHz from VR use is virtually meaningless.

            Avoiding 5G by giving up on wireless VR would be like refusing to go outside for 30 seconds to collect the mail for fear of increased cancer risk from sun exposure, while still being willing to spend all day at the beach every single day.

        • Andrew Jakobs

          You’ll also need a transmitter, the headset itself won’t go processing all the data it receives from the sensors and camera’s or did you forget about that? It isn’t a one way street.

          • Peter Hansen

            True, but that likely goes over a standard Wifi connection, like TPCast does it. 60 GHz is not needed here.

            But again: 60 GHz is much less dangerous then other bands.

            Also: TPCast sends the tracking data from the “power box” which is sitting at your belt (usually). So I’d be more worried about your testicles then your brain.

            But again: guys who are wearing their cell phones in the pants should worry about that instead. Particularly because cell phone emissions have to travel much larger distances than the usual Wifi signal.

          • Caven

            Yes, I am fully aware of that and have pointed it out myself in the past. But the people who are worried about 5GHz and 60GHz for some reason don’t seem to be bothered by the fact that they’re already holding 2.4GHz transmitters in their hands and wearing one in front of their face. I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised that people haven’t thought that through, since they’re worrying about being irradiated by the one component in a wireless system that doesn’t actually generate a signal.

            If people want to be worried about 60GHz, fine, whatever. But at least be freaked out by the box on the wall or ceiling that actually broadcasts the signal. Not the object sitting on their head that’s only listening for the signal.

        • Who’s this?

          “If you have the transmitter on your head, your wireless setup has been installed completely wrong and would be completely unusable as a wireless device.” hahahaha, I like how you say that seriously, one day I hope you can use that unironically.

      • dsadas

        Sorry, but 5G is BY NO MEANS unhealthy. Stop listening to stupid consipracy theories.

    • kontis

      New wireless technologies are quite expensive when they are introduced.

      First wifi AC routers cost 5x-10x more than the cheapest ones you can buy today. It took 5 years.

      So, maybe by 2023 we will have 60 Ghz wifi AY integrated in a well priced VR headset. Before that expect it as expensive addons, or integrated only into high-end “pro” headsets.

    • Sandy Wich

      What I want to see from next gen headsets is proper native accommodation for wireless solutions if they’re not going to build a wireless version outright.

      Tons of people want wireless and are willing to pay for a quality adapter but they’re so 3rd party-like tacked on it’s like hooking a battery up to cd player and then carrying said battery on your waist. I didn’t have to do that shit in the 90’s with my Walkman, no reason why I should be doing it now.

      There should be proper peripherals/headset design that streamlines the devices hookup to a battery pack either on the device or very comfortably off, not just a random band on the leg/waist then meh call it a day.

      • Andrew Jakobs

        You need one hell of a batterypavk to power the headset and the wireless transmitter if you want any decend playtime, and people already complain about the weight of the current headsets.. better on you hip than on your head (let’s not forget that those batteries can get hot, and you don’t want that unnecessarily near your brain.

        • Sandy Wich

          Idk about that, the Nintendo Switch has a 5 hour battery life and it has the display/sound/hardware all in 1 unit. Obviously it’s not high resolution or FPS, but the Oculus GO exists, right? And since VR’s nature is to be fatiguing, I think even a 2 hour battery life would be passable.

          I think with some investment to furthering battery bank technology like folded lithium ion batteries, I don’t think it’s unreasonable to see a battery-in-unit HQ wireless unit down the road. Maybe not soon though, especially considering the price of both the headset, wireless transmitter and a battery in 1 unit…

          But I don’t think we’ll suffer bulky solutions for long, I bet within 10 years we’ll see headsets the same size as the CV1 Rift while being fully wireless with a built in battery. But that’s more hope than anything else.

          • Baldrickk

            And the Occulus Go has a dismal battery life. Like you I’m all for wireless in terms of freedom of movement, but there are also downsides to it – additional price, additional latency, additional weight…

            I’m sure cost will come down in time but for now at least, it’s an expensive optional addon.

          • Sandy Wich

            Well yea, but the Go has the hardware inside it as well, replace that with a battery pack and boom.

            Idk, either way it’s not gonna happen for years. They’ll milk expensive peripherals as long as they can.

          • Caven

            Two hour battery life is not passable. Not every VR game is particularly strenuous, and a two hour battery life would have forced me to play Heart of the Emberstone over the course of three days instead of as a single largely uninterrupted session. The short runtime would also make VR development more difficult.

            If headsets supported hot-swapping batteries, a two hour runtime would be tolerable, but current wireless systems don’t have that capability, resulting in a reboot of the headset every time the battery is swapped. Often, that also requires restarting the VR software that was being used at the time.

            While I’d like to get rid of the need for a waist-mounted pack, I’m not willing to greatly sacrifice battery life to do it.

          • G-man

            yes they do. you can connect batteries in parallel and the headset would never even know batteries were being plugged in or unplugged. it would just keep getting the power it needs.

          • Caven

            If you have to custom make the adapter necessary to connect the two batteries in parallel, that does not count as being supported. Sure, making an adapter that allows connecting two batteries to a TPCast would probably work, but not a single TPCast system comes with that functionality out of the box. There’s a wide gulf between custom mods for hot-swapping batteries, and official hardware support from the manufacturer.

          • G-man

            they also dont give you two batteries so why would they give you a parallel wire?

            it is supported because you can do that. its just not provided. the manufacturer doesnt haver to support it, it’s a battery. it’s electricity. the manufacturer doesnt have to do anything to support it. it’s not a mod. you dont have to modify anything. you plug in a different wire.

          • Caven

            Funny you should say that, because right now TPCast has a bundled promotion where they’re including a second battery with each Vive or Rift TPCast purchase. Even outside that promotion, they do sell extra batteries, so it seems odd that they wouldn’t want to make extra money by making a cable that makes multiple batteries even more useful.

            Also, the makers of TPCast seem to disagree with your definition of “supported”. For the regular TPCast batteries, they’re described only as being “swappable”. However, they also announced a new product this year called the TPCast Plus. Here’s a description of some of the new features:

            “Furthermore, this system supports hot-swap battery, coupled with the newly launched 4-cell battery charging cradle, significantly enhancing the wireless VR system’s endurance and stability.”

            So now they’re advertising support for hot-swap functionality on the TPCast Plus that they don’t advertise for the regular TPCast, and lo and behold they’re planning to sell a new product (the charging cradle) to take advantage of that functionality. It’s as if hot-swapping is a new feature that they’re planning to support and not something they’ve been supporting all along.

            “Possible” =/= “supported”. TPCast won’t sell you a hot-swap cable, and nobody even makes one. You have to fabricate it yourself. The easiest way I can see to make one is to buy a pair of USB Y-cables, which were intended to combine the current of two USB 2.0 ports, not for the purpose of parallel coupling two USB battery packs. Assuming you zip tie them together properly so you can’t accidentally wire them wrong, you now have two loose batteries to contend with, along with the TPCast transmitter, which clearly was not designed to be used without a battery directly plugged into it.

            Lastly, while connecting a longer than 2 meter cable isn’t a “mod” (official 3rd party cables are made, after all), that doesn’t mean it’s supported. I’ve encountered cases where I can plug a 15 meter HDMI cable between two devices, and ultimately the signal degradation from a cable that long causes image artifacts or a complete loss of signal.

            If you want to pretend that anything possible is also officially supported, then by all means continue believing that. But that doesn’t change the fact that the hot-swap cable designed for TPCast literally does not exist. Saying that hot-swap functionality is supported is meaningless when the product that makes it possible is something you have to build yourself.

          • G-man

            thanks for proving my point, they made a hot swap cable and there will be nothing different about the tpcast to make that work.

            if something isn’t supported then it wouldnt be possible. its a simple as that. you can write paragraphs of pointless nothing all you like. doesnt change the fact you can hot swap the batteries.

      • Shawn

        Yes I want wireless, but the vast majority of people are enjoying VR without it. Including wireless components into the headset would increase its cost and reduce interest, a lower price is more important than features (with Rift 2 for instance having a multitude of improvements over Rift based on the Half Dome prototype’s state).

        I don’t expect integrated wireless solutions in the leading VR headsets (from Oculus, plus Valve hardware partners) until 3rd generation hardware, to be honest.

        *Leading VR headsets as in the leaders in market share (e.g. today that is Rift, Vive and the WMR headsets in-regards to PC VR).

        • Sandy Wich

          Everyone has to enjoy VR without it, you either buy a Chinese adapter or you don’t have wireless, right?

          I’ve never met someone who liked the wires, everyone wants it gone. Price is very important though I agree.

          I think they can figure out a way to streamline the headset while making it more streamlined for wireless support. The very least they could do is have some grooves for a wireless adapter cable to run to it’s battery from, or a place where a wireless adapter can snap too. It’s not difficult. Modern controllers are shaped in ways that battery adapters or keypads can easily click onto them, no reason why VR can’t have that too imo.

          As for shipping HQ PCVR wireless headsets, they likely won’t sell standalone units for quite some time, that is unless they release a premium option like the Vive PRO, but actually having it be a premium headset and not a giant piece of bulky ridiculous junk.

          • Shawn

            I never once stated people “like” the wires, I’m saying that reducing the price is the most important aspect outside of high-budget content to push PC VR to a wider audience. As for streamlining design it would require some form of rigidity in the headband assuming that’s where most wireless adapters would go due to their need for a strong signal, which would also impact weight (though if we’re looking hypothetical then they could also ship the adapter itself with a swap-out, rigid head-strap; this would increase its cost but that’s no issue given it’d be enthusiast-only for 2nd generation).

            I do at least expect HTC to push out a more streamlined design for Vive 2 given they’ve partnered with Intel for their Vive Wireless Adapter (with HTC pushing all its bets on VR and all after its abysmal smartphone sales); as for Oculus I’m not too sure what to expect, but they’d likely use an in-house solution.

          • Sandy Wich

            I never said you stated anything bud. Just used it to help explain that nobody wants wires.

            I agree that adoption rate is important, but even with these sales all of these technologies on a billion user platform were being outsold by a 60 million platform like PS4VR a year ago. It’s true that it’s cheaper but I also think content is very important as well to selling these units, not just making them cheap as possible. Make them too cheap and people will think they’re junk. If we get some good high quality exclusive content for PCVR. Aka, “must have content”, I think sales will rise considerably.

            I think adding weight would be a mistake. I think VR needs Graphene. But that’s still a freshly discovered super-material and would probably cost a fair bit. :/

            I really hope HTC does that as well, their current headset is irresponsibly bulky and heavy and seriously needs to catch up to it’s competitors.

          • R FC

            Having spent time with GearVR and Daydream; most recently Focus and Mirage Solo, tethered headsets feel very restrictive.

            Last night I tried an Oculus Rift fitted with Optitrack running on a slim form factor backpack pc. This was used in a warehouse space as part of a hyper reality experience, traversing 5 different environments through portals with physical props (rope bridge, plants) mapped in VR . The freedom to roam was breathtaking.

            Had similar experiences with The Void. Going back to the tether just doesn’t do it for me anymore. I recently used a Vive Pro and found myself back kicking the tether to keep it from under my feet, just like 2 years ago with my OG Vive.

            Roll on wireless!! Adapter or integrated, I don’t care as long as it’s stable, reliable and gives a couple of hours of playtime.

        • Use this elastic excercise band.
          Especially near the connectors in the connector box (Vive), perhaps 1m.
          And possibly another stretch bands.

      • G-man

        yeah, companies should just be psychic and make their devices work with technology that doesnt even exst yet.

    • Jistuce

      Wireless transceiver still has to get video, data, and power from somewhere.

  • Emma

    Does this mean that gen 2 vr headsets would be released in 2019? Rumors of new connector with nvidia gtx 11 series about to be announced next month and capability of gtx 1180 to run 4k at 60fps. Could this card be optimized to run 4k at 90fps with eye tracked foveated rendering for smooth vr experience? So may be the gen 2 vr would have 2k displays per eye, with combined resolution for both eyes being 4k. Asynchronous warp technique may also help render higher resolution per eye.
    Please educate me on this

    • Andrew Jakobs

      There is noone to educate you abput that, only the manufacturers know it and people with nda’s, and those won’t go blabbing their mouths off. The rest is mere speculation based on mostly not even real rumors.

  • impurekind

    If it’s a wire you can use either plugged in or take out and go wireless when necessary then I’m all good with that. But obviously VR needs to be moving away from being wired, so any “future-proofed” cable would really need to be one that isn’t necessary to have plugged into the headset at all times.

  • Sandy Wich

    VR has a long way to go before companies manufacture all their GPUs with extra ports when so few in comparison use VR. It’s great they’re thinking forward though. I do think it would be cool if they made a VR specific line of GPU’s that had the connector though.

    TBH I think it’s flat out ridiculous that we even have more than one display connector type.

    • Andrew Jakobs

      Ofcourse the connector is also usable for standard crap, so you’ll have at least another usb-c (usb3.1) connector extra if you don’t use the connector on the gpu for vr.

    • JJ

      its not an extra port its the next gen of the port. It benefits you whether ur using vr or not

      • Sandy Wich

        Ah so it’s going to replace the HDMI or DP? If so coolness. >:D

    • Daniel Gochez

      VGA, HDMI, DVI, MiniDVI, Display Port, Mini Display Port, Thunderbolt/USB-C
      INGENEER: This is ridiculous! Lets make one format to replace all 8.
      Result: We now have 9 formats.

      • Sandy Wich

        Yeap it’s really fucking stupid. But what can we do? :/

        • G-man

          they al have their reasons for existing. maybe go research how display technologies have developed. and why would it be strange for a gpu to have a usb type c connector? usb c is already used as a means of connecting monitors. theres no reason the gpu usb c cant do the same for regular monitors and also be usable with vr headsets. they could even make monitors that dont need a power plug.

  • Mr. Moon

    4 lanes just capable of 32Gbps so what’s happening here?

  • Casepb

    I really want wireless, but if the cable is super thin and light that’s a nice step up.

  • Would a universal radio transmitter for DP and USB be expensive?!?
    Why not a cheap optical system?