Exclusive: HTC Vive Goes Wireless With $220 Add-On, Pre-Orders Start Friday

by Jamie Feltham • November 10th, 2016

Update: HTC says the initial stock of the TPCAST accessory kit sold out in 18 minutes. A second batch may be available for pre-order next month. Also, an update to the TPCAST website claims the Vive system adds less than 2 milliseconds of latency, and HTC addressed skepticism surrounding the accessory.

Oculus may be closing out 2016 with a bang with the launch of its Touch controllers, but HTC is going to kick off 2017 with something special: a peripheral that makes its Vive headset wireless.

HTC today announced a tether-less VR upgrade kit for its SteamVR device, made by TPCAST, one of the first of 33 companies to join the Vive X Accelerator. A preview version of the kit was shown off today at Alibaba’s “11/11” global shopping festival in Shenzhen, China. This is not the wireless prototype device in the works at Quark VR.

Below we have exclusive footage of the upgrade kit being sampled by Alvin W. Graylin, China Regional President of Vive at HTC. There are no wires connecting the headset to the PC behind the monitor.

Speaking to UploadVR in a phone interview, Graylin said that the experience would “greatly improve” the overall Vive experience, with no “noticeable difference” for factors like latency. The product will be available to pre-order with a standard battery, though Graylin said that a bigger battery will be sold eventually. We’re told the standard battery can deliver around one and a half hours of power. The bigger battery would rest in a user’s pocket.

HTC expects the device to be adopted by “avid” Vive users, though it could also be useful for businesses. Arcades, an area that the company is placing a big emphasis on of late, could have multiple Vive units without worrying about tangled wires and fewer tripping hazards, for example.

Former NBA Superstar Kobe Bryant was the "first consumer" to try the new wireless setup.

Former NBA Superstar Kobe Bryant (pictured) was the “first consumer” to try the new wireless setup.

The upgrade kit will be available to pre-order on Vive’s Chinese website “in limited quantity” for 1,499 RMB ($220.33). The kit is said to ship starting in Q1 2017. According to HTC, pre-orders go live at 7 a.m. Pacific on Friday. Graylin said anyone could order the unit from there and pay for shipping. According to HTC, in a press release, “Order fulfillment will be prioritized to existing customers who can provide a valid Vive serial number.”

Graylin said plans for local releases haven’t been discussed and he wouldn’t confirm if the tech could be integrated into future versions of the Vive, though he does “imagine technologies like this will become an option for future products.”

Wireless PC-based VR is the third type of tether-less VR headset to emerge in the VR industry, the others being devices that use mobile phones and entirely standalone systems. The latter category is quickly gaining interest, with major players like Oculus recently showcasing their own solutions. Products like this upgrade kit might hit a nice sweet spot, allowing people to immerse themselves in complex virtual worlds with hand controls and full freedom of movement throughout a room.

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  • Leonard Glionna

    Any idea if it works well?

    • Tom Fichtner

      <>

      “noticeable” is a very stretchable term. i wonder if it’s any coincidence that they’re going to release it in china first. they are IMHO much more likely to gobble up such promises without asking too many questions… (sorry if this sounds culturally insensitive) … and the market is obviously much bigger

  • Sebastien Mathieu

    I don’t know… but i’m F-ing exited :-), VR backpack are already obsolete and they are not out yet….

    • Gerald Terveen

      VR backpacks never really had a chance as a consumer product, they always were geared towards a different use case like Arcades similar to THE VOID. And for those they still are relevant as the wireless products won’t have the reach to allow for use beyond room scale I expect.

      • Exactly. But since Vive anyway is still limited to lighthouse range and this solution is Vive specific, there might be quite a chunk of business applications that could switch from backpack to wireless. However one huge issue with wireless could be interference especially at trade shows.

        • Lukas Lockenkopf

          The more Lighthouses you have, the more room is available in VR, at least thats what Valve made clear.
          It should be released in the near future, making it possible to map out bigger rooms (maybe also more complex ones?) for Roomscale experiences.

          • Yes, everyone is expecting that and hoping for it, but it not here yet and it is probably tricky from a technical standpoint with lasers interfering (compare to trying to operate two vive setups next to each other with independent lighthouse emitters). Until it’s actually here and working we can just speculate.

          • Nicholas

            It’s possible, but each additional lighthouse would reduce the scanning rate of the others and hence tracking accuracy. Plus the current lighthouses can’t be daisy-chained – you can only wire up two via the sync cable.

          • G-man

            it doesnt have to reduce the scan rate. right now they have them scanning perpendicularly so that its very easy to calculate and discern between what laser is hitting what sensor at a time. if they introduce a 5th/6th laser at 45 degrees from a third lighthouse, then thats another thing to calculate but it should still be more than possible to discern between which hit on the sensor is which laser they just havent coded it because there is next to no demand for it.

          • Nicholas

            I don’t think the laser orientation would solve it – the x and y beams already take turns at firing within the same lighthouse. The sensors on the hmd and controllers only pick up one beam at a time at the expected frequency.

            You’d really need faster rotors in the lighthouses…

          • G-man

            both lighthouses fire at the same time, one does x, the other does y, so its easy to separate the pings. then they alternate.

            i believe they may have had them operating at a faster rate but the units were too loud so they slowed them down. a 7200 rpm hdd motor would be 120 scans per second, but they slowed them down to 60 each axis, 120 scans per second in total.

          • bobby mcbobson

            but it does…it only scans with one lighthouse at a time. so adding a third lighthouse would double waiting time for each of them

          • mirak

            They scan perpendicularly but not at the same time.
            They are interleaved. (they alternate).
            The head set knows wich laser is hiting the photodiode because he knows exactly at what time each laser is emited.

          • bobby mcbobson

            the tech in vive and current lighthouses cannot handle more than 2 lighthouses, so expanding lighthouse range seems to be a gen 2 thing

          • GodMk2

            The linitation is only the current implementation of the tracking host built into Steam client. If you look at an archtecture diagram of the vive subsystems the tracking host could run on another PC… you know what that means…. warehouse scale 😉 One of the Vive-X companies is working on it. Before then however its already possible to have 1 pair of lighthouses sending its beams to more than 1 HMD. The HMD sends its worked out coords back to its host PC and the GPU renders that players view. Potential is already here for > 1 player roomscale now you wont tangle your cables.

          • bobby mcbobson

            I wasnt talking about more players with same lighthouses, the problem is that the current hardware in the lighthouses doesnt support more than 2 of them in the same area(lighthouses that is, not players). and this is not fixable, and was confirmed by alan yates to be something that isnt possible until gen 2 lighthouses.

          • mirak

            You could use more than two lighthouses as long as they are not in the same room.
            The tracking is done internaly by the head set and controlers, not by the PC.

          • mirak

            I am not sure it’s that clear, because each laser produced by a light house have it’s own time space.When you use two light house, they work in interleaved mode, and share the time space.
            Therefore, the frequency of one laser occurence is divided by two.
            If you had lighthouses the frequency must be divided, and you lose tracking accuracy.

          • tonivanbelle

            yep thats what i’m thinking…. a big hanger 50/50 meters with multiple people wearing a vive mmmmmm nice

        • Morndenkainen

          I’ve got a 25wx20dx10h garage that I use as my “man cave”… The 2 included lighthouses give me free reign of the room as long as I don’t trip over the damn cable. That’s a LOT of play space.. I can assure you that 2 lighthouses are more than capable of giving you an “adequate” space to play. I just wish my garage was a little taller…

    • Lukas Lockenkopf

      Those seemed quite rad ~1 year ago, but wireless is definitely more sensible.

    • RoJoyInc

      was dumb idea anyway.

    • GraveUypo

      well you can always use the backpack outside, on trips or whatever. it still has its uses.
      but yeah, such a stupid solution to a problem that shouldn’t even exist in the first place. this is what it should have been all along

  • Buddydudeguy

    There is no reason why this would be Vive only as opposed to Rift.

    • Gerald Terveen

      There is no reason we shouldn’t see comparable products for the Rift in the future.
      I am not entirely convinced that HTC won’t have some sort of active protection in the hardware to not make it a product for the competition.

      Though I do hope this will make the Rift wireless as well!

    • peteo

      Well the Vive also has USB to the HMD to send sensor tracking . They might have to do something with streamVR to help with latency.

    • Nicholas

      In theory there’s no reason this shouldn’t work with the Rift as it stands. It’s really just an HDMI and USB repeater, although perhaps it might be limited to USB 2 with low power.

    • DougP

      Re: “There is no reason why this would be Vive only as opposed to Rift.”
      Except according to Facebook/Oculus rationale:
      1) The wireless device should test to see if a device other than Vive was attached & NOT WORK if so
      2) [best case scenario] Only work for the Vive for 6-9 months & at some point LATER work with Rift
      BOTH of these are “good for the industry”.

      So do all the Facebook apologists want this to only work on the Vive…you know …to help “kick start” the VR industry?

      • Buddydudeguy

        What are you babbling about?

        • DougP

          Reading comprehension issues?

          Facebook apologists have been telling the VR community that exclusivity & hardware lock-in is a good thing. Good for consumers & the industry.
          So I’d like to see them all express their interest in this device being a Vive exclusive…you know, “for the good of the industry”.
          If not….can you spell ‘hypocrite’?

  • PianoMan

    I bet HTC are eyeing them up for a buy-out! See how well it sells and what the feedback is and then include that in Vive 2 or 3.

  • Richard Bettridge

    I cant find any info about this on google. Can you post some sources please? I really want to buy this thing especially if the initial supply is limited.

  • Pat Denis

    WOHHHOUUUUUUUU READY TO ORDER !!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • wywarren

    Pretty impressive that they can do 2160×1200 @ 90Hz over wifi…

    • Byron Guernsey

      Did they say it was Wifi? I just assumed it was UltraWide Band based.

      • CarlosTSG

        Could be analogue signal like the racing drones, who knows?

      • Daijobu

        If it is UWB, doesn’t that come with some drawbacks? It could interfere with any other signals for instance, there’d be no support for 2+ vives in a relatively small room, and what if you had multiple instances of this in for instance a thin walled apartment building? I’m just hopeful you’re very knowledgable about the hardware and can answer such basic questions, if you don’t know offhand you need not google on my behalf.

        • Byron Guernsey

          My understanding of UWB is not very advanced. What I have read in the past is that UWB appears as broad low-level noise across the spectrum and as such does not typically interfere with more discrete/strong signals. UWB itself is resistant to interferences/blocking because it is spread across the spectrum. I believe UWB supports a concept of channels which allows selection of bands for use for a particular device and would tolerate multiple devices operated in the same vicinity. I do not however know the maximum bandwidth of the unlicensed spectrum it can populate.

          The reason I assumed UWB is because when it was first introduced, some of the early demos were of ultra high definition UWB televisions.

  • Arturo Toledo

    I’m assuming Steam will add support for multi-room (or large single room > 5mx5m) chaperon?

  • Jeff Recobs

    I really am excited for reviews to come in. I’ve got the money, but I won’t preorder until a trusted reviewer/youtuber gives it the thumbs up for latency.

  • Nicholas

    Take my money!!

    Wow, this came along sooner than I expected. Can’t wait!

  • Declan Feeney

    No mention of latency anywhere in the article.
    Wireless VR isn’t the problem. Low latency wireless VR is the issue.

    I think I’ll hold fire until someone I trust has had a chance to assess it or review it.

    • Pingu

      “Speaking to UploadVR in a phone interview, Graylin said that the experience would “greatly improve” the overall Vive experience, with no “noticeable difference” for factors like latency.”

      • Craig Lawrence

        Noticeable to whom, though? I’d like to see some technical data about what kind of m/s delay can be expected if any (of course, it’s wireless, so there will be SOME delay).

        • polysix

          Don’t worry, it’s only noticeable to whiny oculus rift fans, even though of course the rest of the world can’t see it. It’s dem special skills (fanboism)

          • Texazzpete

            But you’re the first to post a childish, fanboy comment so far…

          • polysix

            am I fuck, I’m referring to the cunts over on reddit and the official forum you prick

          • Asheasheashe

            Wow you sound a bit….special

          • polysix

            Yeah, and you sound like a cunt.

          • Asheasheashe

            Christ what are you, 15? You come across as emotionally unstable.

          • bobby mcbobson

            in the oculus subreddit there has been no fanboyish comments in the post regarding this, and the only childish one there was one similar to your comment. most of the fanboys seem to have settled down there, though heaney still goes overboard from time to time

          • polysix

            Check Heany’s usual BS. Frankly I don’t give a fuck what you think so please stop replying to me.

          • tonic316

            Nice melt down LMAO.

          • bobby mcbobson

            I mentioned heaney, and said hes pretty much the only true fanboy still active…

        • Torben Leth

          As a Vive owner, this is exactly what I’m interested in knowing.

      • Nicholas

        It’s reportedly 15ms i.e. slightly more than a frame. That’s if they are transmitting the full 90fps (which I’d expect they are, otherwise this would be worse than useless…)

  • Marcin Stachowiak

    It doesn’t let me add it to the cart…
    Will try again later 😉

  • Dev Rifter

    getting this

  • Pistol Pete

    HELL YEAH!! I want this now!!!! Woohooo!!!!!

  • impurekind

    We’re slowly but surely getting there, guys—the dream is becoming [virtual] reality. 😀

  • Ugur

    I’m excited about such things coming together, it will be awesome when there is a reasonably priced great working solution. The only part i really dislike about this is that there is zero technical data given. That makes it seem not trustworthy to me. Because come on, what is the latency, what is the technology standard used for the transmitting etc, those are quite important points for getting an idea for how well it works. If it works well i hope they also state the technical details, it would make me be into buying right away much more if those are good, too.

  • Ugur

    if it is really 15 ms delay as i read in a few places now, that would boil down to around 66 fps feel coming through, no? Would have to be around 11 ms for 90 fps coming through.
    Still, even 66 fps feel could be cool for many game types.

    • Not necessarily. You can have a consistent 15ms delay or even longer while still running at 90Hz.

      The only thing you need is that each leg of the roundtrip, (sending headset and controllers state to the PC, rendering, and image transfer back to the headset), be itself less than 11ms. They can all run in parallel for different frames. The total latency is the sum of them but the framerate is only limited by the longest individual step, usually rendering or image transfer. Encoding and decoding can also be parallelized.

      • Ugur

        hm, i see, thanks for the reply =)

      • Nicholas

        Indeed – it means you’d have an input latency of being slightly more than a frame behind. That’s if this thing can actually deliver 90Hz in the first place.

        • Bryan Ischo

          But input latency includes headset positioning latency, so this means that you’d have viewpoint lag of at least a frame. Is this noticeable? I thought humans were pretty sensitive to this sort of thing, and that the consequences of it being off were pretty dire (VR sickness).

          • Nicholas

            It largely depends on the human, but yes, that might be enough to result in a slight swimming feeling and resulting nausea.

          • This can be accounted for to some extent in software using prediction as is done right now to provide 0ms of virtual latency. If they can stay under 20ms and the applications are modified to be able to increase the prediction interval it could work.

          • Christopher Houser

            I imagine we’ll be able to offset the ASWP technique to the headset itself using dedicated hardware. That way the positional and rotational tracking can update the static image that ASWP works with, then swaps out the static image every time a frame update occurs. It would make the latency unnoticeable.

  • NobleBrutus

    It says sold out already! Dang it.

  • arielwollinger

    I would put the battery on a belt. Less stress on the neck.

    • polysix

      It’s no stress, it helps balance up the front heavy design of vive. It’s actually MORE like PSVR with this fitted (that has added weight in the back on purpose for balance, PSVR the heaviest of all HMDs and yet is by far the most comfy – I know cos I’ve had Vive and PSVR). There is no stress on the neck with this fitted, or at least it should in theory be LESS than current with the dangly face dragging (esp when looking down on Vive).

  • LIV

    Only ships to China ATM. 🙁 Tried pre-ordering the second it was available.

  • Thomas from Denmark

    Anyone have luck pre-ordering?

  • Jaime García-Miña H.

    You can’t buy it. The form only allows sending the units to china addresses. :/

    • Sentsuizan

      Find a reshipping service like MeiMei

  • Doctor Bambi

    This to me signals that Gen 2 headsets will more than likely have integrated wireless solutions. Very, very exciting news and super happy for my Vive brothers and sisters if this device lives up to it’s potential.
    Bring on the technical reviews and impressions!

    • Augure

      It has to.

  • Alex Coulombe

    “Graylin said anyone could order the unit from there and pay for shipping.”

    Nope. Requires china address and china bank account.

  • GodMk2

    Before you get too excited you need to understand there were some serious physical limitations on RF spectrum getting 90fps at 2.5x HD resolution across a wireless link. This obviously works.. but what sacrifices have been made? Compresion? Incomplete rendering? Dedicated frequency in a lead lined labrortory? As an arcade owner, yes I’ll buy x 8 if it improves the experience, but not if it glitches and hangs and has bandwidth issues. One possible solution is that they arent using RF but light based transmission. More specs needed. It certainly isnt wifi which only support 600MBits while the Vive needs circa 60Gbits. 100x faster than clean area wifi.

    • Nicholas

      Exactly this. TPCAST advertise 87.3Mbps on their website – that’s pathetically low for an uncompressed 2160×1200 stream at 90fps, unless they’ve reduced the framerate and used compression. Neither of which is great for a VR screen less than an inch from your eyes.

      • GodMk2

        Doh! So me getting excited and posting everywhere it might be LiFi is over excitement. hmmn. how do you fit a 10+Gbits data stream into 87Mbits? Its certainly using compression then. If we are lucky they might get an inage nearly as goid as a PS VR with similar tracking 😉

        • Nicholas

          I’m hoping they’re either using multiple channels or that’s a mistake on their site. At any rate, wait for the reviews before spending your cash. I’m still excited we’re getting to true tetherless VR so quickly (rather than the lame mobile solutions).

          • Augure

            I believe you are talking of raw GPU output for a standard screen, which I do not think is translated to VR but rather is supersampled (although never advertised as such).

            Also I’m pretty sure there’s no compression as it would make the lag too heavy for head-movements, so however they are streaming wirelessly I just believe it’s about the image res and fps at which they output it that makes it broadcastable.

          • Nicholas

            The GPU does the supersampling (rendering to a higher resolution) before scaling it down to the monitor (HMD) resolution. Doing it on the HMD would be silly and expensive.

          • LIV

            Damn I love how technical you guys are getting. Most comment section intellectual plateau on this hits “vive has cables and I want it to be wireless and be 10k resolution” and ends there.

        • Augure

          How is this 10+Gbits (per what, minutes?)?

          I’m too skeptical, but to me all this sounds perfectly possible, especially on dualband, give that you can choose the way the image as output by the machine however you want.

          • Nicholas

            Work it out: 2160×1200 x 3 bytes per pixel (assuming an 8-bit display) x 90 fps = 667 megaBYTEs per second = roughly 5.2 gigaBITS per second (Gbps) for the raw uncompressed data stream. That’s a far cry from 87.3Mbps 🙁

          • GodMk2

            You forgot.. the vive renders at 1.3x that 2160×1200 screen res. I think it overscans so if you turn your head before the next frame has been rendered its got some spare pixels to bring into view. Or maybe just for anti aliasimg. 87Mbits ?

          • Nicholas

            That’s just for brute-force anti-aliasing I believe (super-sampling) which happens at the GPU end. The display component is just a display – I don’t think there’s any tracking logic applied internally to it?

          • GodMk2

            Ah…that makes sense. I’ve been messing with SS settings and yes… they dont translate into pixels down the wire, just clearer images in the ones that get sent. I’ve seen somewhere now they are claiming 15ms minimum lag. I thought 11 was the upper limit for noticeable tracking delay. One to try before buy!

          • GodMk2

            10Gbits mean 10 Giga bits per second. Can be written with the / so 10Gbit/s but often ommited for brevity.
            Check out tech specs on wikipedia for wireless 600Mbits. Then HDMI… 3.4Gbits upto 10Gbits so a wireless link, or even 2 isn’t going to get anywhere near those speeds.

    • Ying J. Chen

      That’s 300Mhz HDMI or ~7.2Gbps of bandwidth video. HTC Vive also uses USB 2.0. It’s an add-on adapter so it doesn’t affect the rendering (ie PC side). There is already low latency 4K30 (also 7.2Gbps) as well as 4K60 (ie 14.4Gbps) wireless solution out there. 🙂

  • Sean Bradshaw

    Nope, won’t let you order from the US. the comments in the quantity select field say “The elements will be rendered by country”, and for US HTC Sense accounts there are zero option elements which means you can’t select a quantity. I tried bypassing it, but on the next page the proceed button is disabled. If they did their homework eventually you get to a point where the server doesn’t accept the order with a US credit card to ship to a US address.

  • David Dewis

    one and a half hours battery sounds optimistic. Especially with a battery that small. Guess we’ll see

    • Ethan

      I wonder if putting the Vive into “night mode” which dims the screen would help with battery life…

      • David Dewis

        I have a rift which doesn’t have a similar mode. Doesn’t the dimmer screen affect contrast and immersion?

        • Ethan

          Not really, in fact the Vive has bad haloing in dark scenes with bright objects, so a reduction in contrast actually improves perceived visual quality. But this may be a moot point because I just read that the battery life may actually be more like 2-5 hours.

  • PK

    i would ask a chinese friend to order one today, really excited by this, however the vive is too noisy for really high end, sensitive headphones. i have to use a cable extension direction from my pc to use them, and this wireless solution seems like it would require me to open up the vive to implement. and eliminate the possibility of going back and forth between wired and wireless. and i doubt the wireless option will remove the background noise.

  • Augure

    Amazing and…necessary. VR is going nowhere…with cables (duh). I can’t believe it took the underwhelming sales and the many unsatisfied feedbacks to understand that YES, VR should’ve never been a lazy update to the original Oculus Rift DK1 prototype and go all the way up to an actual full and ready Virtual Headset for consumer adoption.

    One of those necessary component being wireless broadcasting (ie. compressionless streaming) from operating device to virtual interface, now I’m waiting for mass adoption of internal tracking system.

  • Kazzooey

    Wow! And here I was preaching that we wouldn’t see Wireless headsets for a very, VERY long time due to latency delays. I’ll wait for reviews from trusted people if it’s as good as it sounds or if latency is still an issue before I eat my own words. Battery life, I don’t think, is a gigantic issue to be honest. I can’t imagine playing an active VR game for more than 1.5 hours anyways unless I’m handing the headset off to someone else immediately afterwards.

    But that’s crazy though. Vive is making some awesome new progress on their tech. New, smaller and better controllers, and now WIRELESS? Lower the price point and minimum requirements and you’ve really hit gold.

  • Bibelo

    Will it bake my brains? (although I don’t have much up there ahah)

  • Tom VR

    Congratulations to HTC for once again being on the leading edge.

  • Burstup

    I am very skeptical about this, regarding latency, stability and battery usage…
    Would be cool if it really works well though.

  • RoJoyInc

    will be cool someday – they should look into DJI’s mavic drone. The tech sends HD video as far as 3 miles. Surely that range isn’t needed, but it is sending wireless HD with virtually no lag when close.

  • RoJoyInc

    THIS WILL BE BIG when ready.

  • It’s is kind of salesy to sell and upgrade for a couple of hundred dollars, however the future of VR is undoubtedly untethered.

  • Ying J. Chen

    I heard TPCast updated the latency. It can’t be 15ms… Should be under 5ms.

  • I am confounded that this is not being made available in the US anytime soon.

  • Next should be a 5G version unlocked for any Carrier! 😛
    I can see it now, “Man killed from VR’ing into on-coming traffic!” lol

  • Pimphand Gamester

    1.5 hours….pfffff, screw that nonsense.

  • Rey Rangel

    I have the PS VR myself, but I am glad to see the Vive is pushing the boundaries of VR. I hope to get one in the future.
    I’m hoping latency does not suffer due to the wireless nature of the device.
    Rift so far is looking like the worst one currently.

  • Muhammad Jihad ✓ᵛᵉʳᶦᶠᶦᵉᵈ

    That’s pretty awesome if it works as it claims it does. I have a Rift, the 1 1/2 hour battery is no issue as I’ve never been able to play VR (outside of say a virtual theater and watching movies) for more than about 45 minutes without my eyes drying completely up and getting a headache, and that’s with taking RX motion sickness meds, which when without, I can’t make it more than about 10 minutes. Anywho this sounds awesome, I hope Oculus rips it off. Even just sitting down playing stuff with a controller a wireless connection would be awesome.

  • Anton Lemishev

    finally they can control humans mind with 6 gbps bandwidth O-)