Valve Is Working on an Untethered VR Headset

Quark VR wants to put a wireless transmitter in every pocket.

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Sep 1 2016, 3:21pm

Image: Quark VR

A Bulgarian virtual reality developer announced this week that it's developing a wireless VR prototype. Quark VR, which had previously only released some development kits for VR programming, is teaming up with Valve to create a version of the HTC Vive that streams over Wi-Fi.

The trick will be finding a way to stream a ton of data without bringing back the lag that hardware iteration has slowly ironed out of head-mounted display technology. Back in the bad old days of the early Rift prototypes, motion sickness solutions showed a lot of promise if they improved nausea-free VR time by two seconds. Display lag time, already measured in milliseconds, got shorter as the hardware got better. The lower the latency, the less motion sickness users felt in VR.

But Wi-Fi sucks. It's unreliable, it drops data, and bandwidth chokes on traffic from internet connected everything. The same shitty transfer rates that make me unplug and plug my router three times a day seems sure to turn any VR adventure into a whitewater rafting plunge down a river of puke. Even Valve's own game-streaming device, the Link, isn't really worth its cost in cables.

Quark VR thinks it's got a way around this with a pocket-sized Wi-Fi transmitter. The goal is to put on the headset, pocket the transmitter, and stream VR without wires. Can it pull it off? Armchair mathematicians on reddit are already debating transfer speeds over IEEE 802.11ac, but the consensus seems to be...probably.

On the other hand, Valve isn't known for thoughtless business moves. With Valve's support, maybe Quark VR can do this thing. If so, it will truly be a big deal for VR. Along with the locomotion problem and the endless array of peripherals, the long cable of data wires are one of VR's main growing pains. VR is supposed to be immersive and seamless, but that stops when you swing your arm into a cable, or worse, trip over the damn thing.

Other ideas floated to solve the cable problem include: destroying your ceiling, hiring a servant, and vandalizing a car wash. If I have to unplug my rectal thermometer to skip all that drama, Quark VR might have themselves a deal.