The TPCast wireless solution for the HTC Vive virtual reality headset is expanding its slate of products to include a multi-user device.
Dubbed the “TPCast: Business Edition,” this system will build on the company’s existing hardware and allow up to six headsets to run wirelessly in a single space.
TPCast BE is targeting a variety of use cases but will specifically aim for “numerous VR vertical markets including arcade, theme park, education, real estate, travel, furniture, automobile, etc.”
Each of the headsets sends a wireless feed through a TPCast unit attached to the Vive headset. This feed is sent to a receiver that relays the data into a PC and then back to the headset across the same channels. All of this two-way communication has to happen many times each second in order to prevent any lost frames or image latency — each of which are catastrophic for VR experiences.
The TPCast consumer version is able to keep latency to a respectable minimum, but that’s with one headset at a time. TPCast CEO Michael Liu explained to UploadVR that the BE system comes with a transmitter and reciever for each of the six headsets that the system can run. It also ships with a software package that can “dynamically manage” the frequency channels being used in real time in order to prevent latency issues when using the multiple headsets. Liu says that the TPCast BE has no additional latency when compared to the consumer version.
We had the chance to try the new system for ourselves during a demo at Vive’s San Francisco offices. I was able to play a game of ping pong in VR while standing across from my opponent. Both of us were wearing Vives and neither of us were tethered; It was beautiful. There was a noticeably diminished frame rate during the first few moments of gameplay, but that quickly diminished and performance returned to an optimal state in the first 30 seconds or so of playing. After that, the experience was seamless and impressive.
Vive arcades are becoming more popular, especially in China, and a system like this will should be able to deliver quality multiplayer experiences to those spaces sooner rather than later.
The TPCast BE will be available “later this year” according to the company. Vive spokespeople clarified that this will likely mean sometime in Q3.
According to Vive, the TPCast consumer version is also targeting a Q3 release in the United States and is still working to achieve FCC compliance.