Report: TPCast wireless kit for Vive headset shows promise


— 9:00 AM on December 21, 2016

The magic of VR is its ability to transport us to new worlds and make us feel like we're really there. Any hitches to the VR experience, be it cords, lag, or a mischevious onlooker, can take us right out of the experience. It stands to reason, then, that all three of the major VR headsets are wired because they have to be. UploadVR had a chance to look at TPCast's wireless Vive kit, built in collaboration with HTC, and came away impressed. According to the site, wireless VR seems to really work.

The TPCast transmitter attaches to the top of the headset. Its battery comes in two sizes, mounted in different spots: the two-hour model goes at the back of the headset, and the beefier five-hour model can go in your back pocket. To communicate with your PC, the TPCast uses a transmitter with a line-of-sight connection.

The idea of a line-of-sight connection is a bit unnerving, but the folks at UploadVR did everything they could to break that line of sight, up to and including doing handstands and cartwheels. UploadVR's Az Balabanian writes that he's spent hundreds of hours using Vive headsets, and that the TPCast hardware didn't introduce any delay that he could detect. The reported latency was apparently well under the often-quoted 20-ms benchmark required for comfortable VR, too.

If you like a clean play space, though, the gear may be a bit of a turnoff. While the hardware seen above isn't terribly obtrusive, the video transmitter needs to sit above the play space the same way the Lighthouses do, so it's yet another black box on a pole to place, aim, and then look at.

The model that the UploadVR's reporters played with was a prototype using 3D-printed parts and even some duct tape, but the results they're reporting are encouraging. It doesn't seem like a far out idea that wireless capabilities could be a stock feature on VR headsets a couple years from now.

The TPCast device is set to release in China in the first quarter of 2017, with a US launch set for "sometime next year." An official US price is unavailable, but previous estimates from Tpcast pointed to somewhere north of $200.

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