Zotac Has an Untethered VR PC Solution for HTC Vive and Oculus Rift

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Small form factor PC specialist Zotac are about to enter the virtual reality hardware race with a nifty solution to your tethered, cable-lugging room-scale VR woes; A portable PC that can be strapped to your back.

Consumer virtual reality is finally here, but it’s wired. This is bad enough for a predominately seated experience that the Oculus Rift offers, but to get the most from its room-scale friendly, SteamVR powered rival the HTC Vive, you need to lug around the headset along with the weighty, presence sapping cables too.

Zotac, a company famous for designing and manufacturing small form factor PC systems, is about to step into the VR hardware fray with a solution to help cut the VR cord. How does it plan to do this? Well, the solution is both comparatively low-tech and at once elegant; they’re strapping the PC to your back.

zotac-zbox-for-vr

Wearable PC hardware has of course been around for some time and we’ve covered more than one VR system which adopted the PC-in-a-rucksack approach (sometimes referred to as a ‘backtop’). The original Project Holodeck team (now Survios) used backtops for their early prototypes and the forthcoming virtual reality entertainment theme park The Void requires players to haul powerful rendering hardware on their backs.

Neither of those examples of course are focused on consumer VR, so Zotac is looking to fill what it sees as a gap in the market by producing it’s own, mini PC with a custom, rucksack style case to put it in.

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No details on either the PC components that power the experience or indeed how the carry-bag is constructed, and how on earth ventilation works when its in action. Zotac tells us that the equipment on display in the video represents prototype hardware. The promotional blog post however refers to the company’s ZBOX line of mini-PCs, the minimum GPU specification required from consumer VR (NVIDIA GTX970 / AMD 290) is not available in a form factor that matches. The nearest equivalent to what Zotac is proposing is the very expensive line of laptops featuring NVIDIA’s full-fat GTX980 card. Above all else – how long will the batteries last with that kind of grunt under the hood?

As soon as we know more, we’ll let you know.

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  • Starbird

    Nice thing about this setup is that you can take it with you.

    • Steve Biegun

      Just as easily as if you had a compact PC to power a Vive. Don’t forget that they still need to transport the trackers and their mounting solution.

  • TaxPayer

    The problem is going to be battery life. I can see maybe 1 hour, any more is going to take a big battery and that just extra weight and bulkiness….

  • Mettanine

    Don’t see how that works with the Rift. How does the tracking camera communicate with the PC?

    • It’s almost like the author of this post didn’t think about it at all.

    • George Vieira IV

      Good point. I have seen wireless USB hubs, but I bet they would add in an unacceptable amount of latency.

    • brandon9271

      Exactly what I’d like to know.. Just another example of how lighthouse is better..

    • the bandwidth required for the tracking camera is not substantial. It can be done easily.

    • Pistol Pete

      You can use it while you stand in one spot. :/

    • chtan

      It works only with HTC Vivve. No chance for Rift as Rift needs a fix sensor location to do the calculation.

  • A Hyena

    What use would the oculus have for this? Only the vive can move around, the Oculus is fixed in place

    • Tom

      That’s not necessarily true. Although Vive has been known for it’s room scale the Rift does have the capabilities (they are a bit more limited with the range) it’s just not being pushed by any of the parties involved (game designers or manufacturers). I think it is worth noting that this could change though if the market shows they demand this sort of concept. As somebody who owns the CV1 I can say I personally would love to move around with my Rift but my office has a giant desk in the way and I have no plans on moving it. Oh well, so goes life. :-)

      • PrymeFactor

        I think he means the Rift camera needs to be connected to the Computer, so it cannot be truly untethered with the Rift.

        • A Hyena

          Honestly it was more that from all I’ve seen, the rifts not really as designed or used for walking around VR compared to Vive

          Vive might have a similar problem with it’s own sensor systems that it has you setup. I think some extra gear designed to wear on your legs would be needed to track leg movement

      • A Hyena

        I noticed the Oculus seem to be trying to play catch up on another site showing a picture of controllers they seem to have in the works.

        Honestly though, my little jab at rift aside.. I’m still rather eh towards it personally for other reasons like their more closed in “store” thing they seem to require game creators to use to work with the rift and itsounds like a lot of peeps are just getting rather screwed over.

        Apparently the rift is already available via retail even though it stills yet to finish deliveries to pre-orders

  • PianoMan

    The battery probably lasted as long as the YouTube video!

  • ProfessorK

    Battery life?

  • Raphael

    That’s one butt ugly solution.

    • Albert Walzer

      good it’s on the back, then :D

  • Yuma55

    That looks beyond ridiculous.

  • Zaza Azuza

    Where can I get a portable nuclear station for this device?

  • DiGiCT Ltd

    It’s the way it can be done, clumsy or not but it’s the way to solve it.
    And yes Vive only due to the lighthouse tracker.
    Battery life time is not the biggest issue as it’s room scale games.
    A good roomscale game makes you exhausted due to full body motions, you cant just play it long times unless you are a super sports guy :)
    Anyhow this is easy to solve if it would be notebook based design as they all can swap their battery packs.
    Great job Zotac, at least we have an option for the roomscale.
    Keep in mind this is not a main replacement but for roomscale only, seated and just standing games should just be fine to play with a PC.

  • Smokey_the_Bear

    I don’t want to carry a PC and a battery on my back.
    The next evolutionary step for VR is a Li-ion battery on the back of the Headset to help distribute the weight, and the data will be transmitted wirelessly from your PC. (and or course better lenses and higher res displays). All of which will be incorporated in the Vive II. Which will launch in 2-3 years. Mark my F’in words.

  • psuedonymous

    “The promotional blog post however refers to the company’s ZBOX line of mini-PCs, the minimum GPU specification required from consumer VR (NVIDIA GTX970 / AMD 290) is not available in a form factor that matches.”

    The ZOTAC Magnus EN980 (https://www.zotac.com/gb/news/most-powerful-mini-pc) fulfils the minimum spec for VR.

  • Harald Heide Gundersen

    Or you could have a long cable from your pc to your helmet… ??? !!! :-)

  • Raphael

    When i saw the title i assumed zotac had some elegant solution to make vr wireless for existing pc gamers. I don’t want to buy another pc when my desktop is vr capable. This is the dumbest thing I’ve seen in a while.

  • yag

    Ha, the good old backtop solution (backpack + laptop). Guys at mtbs3d know well that for a long time :)
    (for the heating problem, just get a mesh backpack)

  • WIth all of this talk about the Vive’s Lighthouse being the only working solution for portable VR… and HTC already being a phone maker…. kinda seems like we might see a Lighthouse compatible cellphone/HMD within the year. It’s a bit off topic, but you guys laid it out here.

  • IAF101

    Can you imagine geeks roaming around the mall and the neighborhood with that strapped on their backs ?