Facebook’s Oculus applied for a patent on an electromagnetic cable connector for PC VR headsets. The concept is similar to the ‘MagSafe’ connector which Apple MacBooks featured until recently.
In current wired VR headsets if you accidentally step on the cable or go too far from the PC, either the computer or the VR headset can be violently pulled out of position. This sometimes causes equipment damage or even minor injuries, and is one of the reasons wireless is so desirable for VR. The concept of this patent seems to be that if enough force is applied, instead of pulling the PC or headset away the cable will simply detach, much like Apple’s MagSafe for laptops.
In July, the new VirtualLink cable standard for PC VR was announced, with Oculus listed as one of the primary backers alongside NVIDIA, AMD, Valve, and Microsoft. No VR headsets with a VirtualLink cable have launched yet, but Oculus’ involvement suggests that future Oculus Rifts are likely to use this standard. NVIDIA’s latest GPUs already feature the port.
The cable of tethered VR is a major roadblock for PC and console VR adoption. While wireless solutions exist, such as HTC’s Vive Wireless Adapter, they’re currently expensive and require wall mounting for optimal performance. While an electromagnetic connector would not avoid the issue of restricted rotation and freedom of movement, it could help lower the danger to objects and people that a cable creates. And of course, keep in mind that companies patent ideas all the time that never actually release to the public.
Notably, the strap of the headset in the patent image is not the Rift’s triangular shape. Instead, it’s a new shape which looks similar to the Oculus logo. It’s possible this has no meaning and was just for this illustration, but worth pointing out when the current Rift’s strap resembles the HTC Vive logo.