While costs for virtual reality hardware are slowly coming down, there remains the issue of wires that tether users to a PC or console. Intel and HTC used Computex to debut a brand new high fidelity, low latency Intel WiGig technology to better integrate the head-mounted display with high-computing capabilities for immersive VR experiences without any wires.
Frank Soqui, Intel’s general manager of virtual reality and gaming, told AListDaily that this is one of multiple obstacles that the VR industry faces. But these are similar challenges to what was done with touch on displays and in the early days with solid-state drives over hard drives.
“Nothing really conveys the value and the use of VR like trying it out,” Soqui said. “The challenge is how to get to scale to be able to touch end users and to give them a voice to influence others. Venues like retail iCafes make ideal locations. Online capabilities will help users get a better understanding of what it could mean to be in VR. Social media, where end users that have tried the experience, will be the trusted advisers to those who have yet to try it.”
While TPCast is readying a tetherless Vive upgrade kit option, Soqui said Intel WiGig is unique in that the silicon used in the technology is based on 802.11ad standard. It works solely in the interference-free 60GHz band, and enables high throughput and low latency connection between the HMD and PC.
“As a result, the video quality enabled is pristine and the incremental latency is seamless in any environment, supporting multiple users sharing the same space natively,” Soqui said. “It supports Quality of Service (QoS) standard, meaning tracking information is being delivered faster to the image, and the image is delivered faster than HMD camera feeds, assuring a smooth experience in changing wireless conditions.”
While there’s no date for the rollout of the Intel WiGig device, Soqui said Intel and HTC are working together to perfect the technology. The companies will market this new technology to consumers, many of whom are already familiar with the “Intel Inside” messaging.
“This new VR accessory recognizes the need to better integrate HMD capabilities with high-computing capabilities, creating an untethered user experience for HTC Vive customers,” Soqui explained. “It will benefit player versus player and team competition. It means being able to turn around 360, cross paths with other players without getting tangled or having to have someone manage your cables during game play.”
Intel has invested heavily in esports through the Intel Extreme Masters (IEM). The recent IEM Finals in Katowice, Poland featured multiple VR games that could cross over to esports. Tetherless technology will be key for pro gamers to excel inside VR arenas in the near future.
Beyond gaming, removing the wires and increasing the visual fidelity will also impact non-gaming endeavors.
“We see applicability in commercial and enterprise, especially where you need to be in collaborative situations where you want to move between a workspace side by side with others, and then move into a virtual space to interact with each other on virtual objects,” Soqui said. “Having wires removed allows for a better and seamless transition.”
Soqui believes Intel WiGig will give HTC a new marketing message to help further VR’s reach.
“Fundamentally, VR is about taking you to and putting you in an interactive experience. Using WiGig enabled HMD and then showing usages in VR where wires get in the way is an example of an interactive experience in VR,” Soqui said. “You can use VR to show your movement with and without wires and what the impact/consequence of that experience will be.”
Goldman Sachs forecasts that the total VR market is expected to reach $80 billion by 2020 and $569 billion by 2025, and that the PC will be the main revenue driver for VR. “We believe that highly sensory and immersive experiences are required to drive consumer adoption, led by best-in-class VR technology,” Soqui said.
Ultimately, for VR to become mainstream, Soqui believes users must have six degrees in freedom of movement which is not limited to the length of a cord. “We see this wireless barrier allowing for a more natural experience which allows users to move and behave as they would in the real world,” Soqui said. “That means 360 degrees of movement.”
Soqui said Intel used Computex to get the Intel WiGig marketing message rolling because it’s a venue where industry leaders can be in the same place at the same time.
“Being able to see partners and potential partners without having to make independent travel can save a lot of expense,” Soqui said. “It is also a great place to demonstrate to the industry where we are heading and how we want to enlist the industry. It is a place where press, analysts, business and partners can influence and be influenced.”