Valve Invests a “Significant Amount” in Company Seeking To Make Desktop VR Wireless

by Will Mason • October 12th, 2016

One of the biggest (literal) obstacles facing desktop VR right now is the cord. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve tripped or become tangled up in it while playing some of the more active titles out there. Making VR completely wireless has been an obvious target for VR hardware companies for a while now, but it is a problem without an easy solution. Now, Valve has announced that they have invested in Nitero, a company working on a 60Ghz wireless solution for VR.

Speaking with Sven Mesecke, Nitero’s Co-Founder and Vice President, Valve has invested a “significant amount” in the company – who showed us an early demo of their technology this year at CES. Nitero’s solution for wireless VR involves two key parts, wireless transfer via a 60Ghz transmitter and encoding to help make sure all the image data reaches the headset without dropping latency. According to Mesecke, Nitero’s technology,  “is a robust, low latency, solution that has been crafted for VR.”

One of the biggest obstacles Nitero’s technology faced when we first tried it was losing signal when the transmitters’ lost their line of sight. This issue, Mesecke says, has been solved with “customized beam forming” that will help locate the user, saying that “you no longer need line of sight” for the solution to work.

Back in January the company was aggressively targeting a release by the end of this year, however Mesecke says that timeline has shifted.  As a technology supplier, Nitero does not actually create products to sell to consumers, rather they work with third parties to supply their tech for new products, “it is up to our partners to decide when to release this product.”

Nitero says Valve is not the only partner they are speaking with, including those outside of the headset space. “We are also speaking with 360 camera companies and other peripheral makers,” Mesecke says.

Valve is also not the only one investing in Niteros tech, Mesecke says the company has “a number of other” investors but decline to reveal who they were.

Just last week at Oculus Connect, Oculus’ chief scientist Michael Abrash listed wireless desktop VR as a part of VR’s five year timeline. This announcement from Valve and Nitero seems to add credence that it may be coming even sooner than that.

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  • AcroYogi

    The best part is, this development shouldn’t require much modification to existing content libraries. So its a win for both consumers and developers.

  • Diego Lopez

    I wonder how HMD will get power…

    • unreal_ed

      Could be battery and then you can plug in when battery gets low. Having just the power cable would make it still much more comfortable than the current 3-in-1 cable.

      • Crate – A – Day

        The 3 in 1 cable is such a pain in my ass. Especially with games where you do a lot of turning in circles. I want the thinner version I’ve seen people boast about getting as a replacement from HTC. A few days ago my cable was so twisted I only had like 4 feet of slack…

        • unreal_ed

          Idk how they’d do it but just having a cable that could rotate on itself would be super helpful

    • emugod

      Batteries, just like cellphones. That’s never been an obstacle, and I’d hope the receiving antenna needed for this wouldn’t require enough power to make it one.

    • Jai Mico

      I’ve heard Samsung makes some killer batteries !

      • DougP

        Re: “some killer batteries”
        Maiming maybe, but killer might be a bit extreme. 😉

    • Christenh

      Recharge, just like their controller.

  • Smokey_the_Bear

    I sold my Vive because the cord just got in the way too much. I’m hopeful that next year someone will come out with a wireless desktop VR HMD.

    • James Butlin

      That’s a very poor reason for selling a Vive. Plus it’s y’know.. Modular? Any wireless solution that’s released will be able to just plug straight into the existing headset..

    • GodMk2

      you’d have done better to spend $5 on a retractable dog lead and hang it from the ceiling. Works perfectly and balances the cable so it doesn’t even hang on your back. HTC really should include something in the box to ceiling mount the cable!

  • REP

    Wireless, hd light hmd=dream

    • Christenh

      weight is not a huge problem. stable is. I would prefer to be wired if the video keeps on and off….News always run a lot faster than the real progress.

  • flavortang

    As a VR fanatic, I remember saying that it’d be 5-7 years after first-gen HMDs came out before VR even started to tease at being accepted by the mainstream. Wireless definitely needs to be there for casuals to pick up and use VR so I think the 5-7 years before significant market penetration is probably correct.

  • Great news. Quite sure thaty they disclosed this news now just to answer to Oculus Santa Cruz prototype.

  • How much data throughout is actually necessary though?

    Why wouldn’t 802.11ac work?

    50ms latency? Or insufficient bandwidth?

    • sklaerps

      let’s assume 4096×2160 resolution with 32-bit color depth and 90 fps… 4096*2160*32*90 = 25,480,396,800 bits per second or 23.7 Gigabits Per Second for uncompressed video. Uncompressed is important for anything in-motion — as compression adds to latency.

      Let’s take H264 as an example — here’s a formula for ‘idealized compression’ that H264 can achieve:
      [image width] x [image height] x [framerate] x [motion rank] x 0.07

      Assuming a motion rank of 4 (because we’re playing an action game in VR, and our viewpoint ‘moves’ when we turn our head) we get the following: 4096*2160*90*4*0.07=212.6 [Mbps] when ‘ideally compressed.’

      So for uncompressed video at a mere [email protected]? 802.11ac’s limit of 1Gbps (with multi-segment! read: low-noise environment!) is insufficient. For ‘ideal’ compressed video? Maybe you can make it fit. But didn’t you want two screens in your VR? And remember — 802.11ac’s carrier wave can penetrate walls — so you have to contend with airtime with surrounding access points belonging to your neighbors who are on your channel… 1Gbps is a /theoretical/ max for 802.11ac. 802.11ad in comparison has a theoretical max of about 9Gbps and its carrier does not penetrate walls (the beam is directional, too) — so you have less contention over the air