ResearchVR Episode 26 – Is Wireless VR Really The Solution?

by ResearchVR • December 20th, 2016

During Hackvention 2016 we had a chance to discuss the pressing matter of wireless VR with people who know the struggle behind it: Nicole Laux from XMG and Dominic Eskofier from NVIDIA.

Nicole Laux is the marketing manager at XMG, with particular focus on VR. XMG (Xtreme Multimedia and Gaming) is a provider of high end laptops and desktops, but most importantly of all, Walker – the first commercially available VR Backpack.

Dominic Eskofier is the head of VR for NVIDIA in Europe and few other regions. He started in games business doing magazines and websites for Computec Media GmbH. During his next job at Rockstar Games he fell in love with modern VR (Rockstar Games was not the reason for him to do VR) and he opened his own startup – Realities.io. As already mentioned, he is now heading up the VR business for Nvidia in the EMEAI region..

Both Nicole and Dominic have a vested interest in wireless VR, because of the VR Backpack trend on the one side, and graphical performance limitations on the other.

“I personally think that there will always be a use case for a tethered device. Because at some point you not only drive a full HD display over wireless, but you are going 2K, 4K, 8K.” Dominic Eskofier said.

Selfie with guests while recording this episode; From the right: Nicole Laux, Dominic Eskofier, Petr Legkov, Kris Izdebski

Selfie with guests while recording this episode; From the right: Nicole Laux, Dominic Eskofier, Petr Legkov, Kris Izdebski

Episode Preview

In this episode we have discussed a long list of topics, all connected to why wireless is important, how it is going to change more than just the VR ecosystem, and, most importantly, why it is not a solution for everything. For more show notes, links, and the list of discussed topics, check out this episode website.

For one, why do we want to get rid of cable in the first place? While we usually start the discussion from the point about our own comfort and a feeling of freedom, there are some use cases that cannot work with a cable. Among them we have VR for therapy and elderly people. Many times people with chronic back pain or simply past a certain age have significant difficulty raising their legs. To that, elderly people have much higher awareness of the things they could trip over, and that includes a cable. In the end, the whole experience is by far diminished, since these users focus on their own safety.

“It doesn’t really help if somebody is walking behind you and carrying you on the leash. It wouldn’t help at all,” said Nicole Laux.

Now, wireless could be a solution to this and many other issues, but is it really solving anything? If we look at the technology behind the TPCAST, we can see that it has concerns around occlusion and range. The receiver should be close and in direct line of sight to the sender, which in the end presents high occlusion risk.

Discover more thoughts on wireless VR, such as it’s influence on fashion, R&D technologies, VR Fitness and more in our podcast episode Episode 26 – Is Wireless VR Really The Solution?

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  • DougP

    Re: tethered backpacks / wireless

    Understand & agree that there will be a use case for tethered for quite some time, however:
    1) If the likes of TPCast (/other similar tech) works well for ~2K’ish displays, I see wireless as a very appealing approach. Honestly, cranking up graphics quality through the likes of supersampling, along with even better ~2K (/wifi supportable res) is arguably going to yield better results in the near-term (next few years) before graphics cards can handle 4K-8K at 90-120fps.
    2) Backpack PC – it’s cumbersome & can even be more intimidating for the likes of youth/elderly/those with a bad back/etc.
    3) Mobile/self-contained VR – mobile sized (built-in cpu/gpu) hardware is already in the realm of last-gen console quality & with the economies of scale ( & newer 12-16nm fab ), I can see a quality self-contained HMD as an appealing alternative to the likes of a backpack

    Re: TPCast / “receiver should be close and in direct line of sight to the sender, which in the end presents high occlusion risk”
    This would be the exact same risk as current gen room-scale VR’s best option – Vive’s Lighthouse tracking.
    Couple of points:
    1) Of course receiver needs to be close – so do your Lighthouse emitters or Rift cameras. Or is this saying it needs to be *closer*? (doubt that)
    2) Line of sight – right, which is what Vive & Rift require for tracking (IR is line of sight, to sensor/camera)
    3) “high occlusion risk” – same as HMD & motion controllers. As well, a possible improvement would be TWO receivers, similar to Vive’s approach to having an emitter at opposite ends
    4) Mount a single receiver on your ceiling? It seems likely that the best approach could be to mount it up high, on the ceiling, in the middle of your playspace. Outside of doing handstands & covering your head, I can’t imagine occlusion being a risk (at least not higher than the actual VR system tracking)

    • Alvin Wang Graylin

      Agree with all your points. The TPCast wireless solution actually has longer range and as good occlusion properties as current high-end tracking solutions on the market. It’s not the bottle-neck today.

    • SHunter

      Build in TPCast technology into the Lighthouse units.

      • Petr Legkov

        this would be magnificent!

    • Petr Legkov

      i would somehow agree with most points, however:
      1) what is with multi user? I honestly see there the potential of a solution such as the backtop very high!
      2) Fairs? Are you sure the TPCast will work when there are many different devices creating a lot of background noice?
      3) Try a proper backpack – the one from XMG is quite powerful and hence around 3 kilo – you barely feel it on your back imho
      3.1) The Backtop from hp will be even lighter – if you take an i5 instead of an i7 and a 1060 instead of 1070, you can decently go way lower with the weight!
      4) Check what illusion walk is doing – flat scale vr, where you don’t need the vive trackers, you can walk in a huge flat between rooms, or go as big as you want. There you would again need many of the TPcast emitters. For inside out tracking, that in theory allows for unlimited space, useless imho.
      5) Just to make sure, especially in AR i think a backtop has huge potential.
      6) For elder people who might use the vive in a hospital, an emitter as the TPcast might be not possible due to possible interferences with medial equipment

      But your points are decently not rendered wrong by my suggestions 😉 I am just sincerely sceptical if all the use cases, i personally have in mind will work out so well. We have a TPcast wireless HDMI dodge and it tends to loose signal on big events. Sure, the TPcast device for the vive is using apparently 60 Ghz so as not many devises are using it today, the amount of interferences might not be such a huge deal breaker right now …

      the moment i actually can by the TPcast we will have a dedicated episode on it! Promise!

      Great feedback! Thank you very much 😉

  • I think that there are use cases of wireless VR, but they are going to diminish year after year, in favor of pure wireless. Cable is really a problem for VR presence, so it has to disappear