The tethers may finally be gone from VR soon, but there are still a few steps left until virtual experiences feel completely self-contained.
If you fear trying virtual reality and getting tangled in cords, you’re in luck: 2018 could be your year. The last vestiges of tethered cables may finally be going away.
But being wireless isn’t the same thing as being hassle-free.
What’s the big deal about wireless VR, you ask? Maybe you have a phone-connected Gear VR, Daydream View or even Google Cardboard, which are already wireless and always have been. Sure, those are fine, but limited. The best VR experiences — the ones on higher-end PC and game consoles — have involved snaking thick cables to your equipment, and setting up room sensors, too. Microsoft’s VR headsets for Windows 10 released last year got rid of the room sensors, but the tethering cord — from the headset to the PC — remains.
Last year, I tried some early examples of wireless VR: some connected wirelessly to PCs, and others had all the hardware built-in to the headset. A year later, in 2018, it looks like the options will be better — and finally incorporated into consumer hardware you’ll actually be able to buy.
But, even though a world of more advanced, fully wireless VR is now closer than ever, there’s still a limit on how far it will take you.
Wireless PC VR: Learning to love the dongle
HTC is releasing its first wireless VR accessory, backwards-compatible with the original Vive headset or the upcoming Vive Pro, later this year. However, it’s not a PC-free VR experience.
The Vive wireless adapter is a way to play with VR wirelessly at home as long as there’s a PC nearby. This was already possible, in a sense, via an accessory made by TPCast for the Vive last year. But this new accessory promises to be better. It’s also the first consumer product with Intel’s WiGig technology that I’ve ever used.
WiGig has had me excited for years: It’s a super-high-bandwidth way to stream audio and video over short distances, and if it works as well as promised, it could mean a permanent goodbye to HDMI cables.