One of the biggest problems with modern VR headsets like the Oculus Rift and the HTC Vive is mobility. Never mind not being able to use it outside, the cables that connect your headset to mostly stationary computers also keep you from walking too far away. They also present a safety hazard. That is why some companies, notably chip makers like Intel and Qualcomm, are developing standalone headsets. Valve, however, is going by a different route and its newest partner, Quark VR, is now showing off that path.
September last year, Valve and Quark VR announced a partnership that would give the HTC Vive some amount of freedom, though still confined indoors. Quark was initially scheduled to demonstrate a prototype in Fall, but that season has come and gone with nary a wireless Vive in sight. Better late than never, as they say, but the 44-second video is hardly satisfying as a demo.
As Valve mostly likes to do things in the open, Quark’s approach wasn’t exactly kept a secret, though details are. Instead of having a new or modified Vive headset that would wireless communicate with a PC, Quark used a single-board computer (SBC) that connected to the HTC Vive via cables and then connected wireless with a PC. The Quark transmitter could then be tucked away inside pocket, powered by a portable battery.
While this setup doesn’t technically make the Vive itself wireless, is has two very significant advantages. The first is that it solves the problem of the limitations of placing Wi-Fi hardware inside the headset itself, which would, in turn, possibly limit the bandwidth of the connection. Having a dedicated and more powerful Wi-Fi device acting as a middle man could improve performance and minimize lag.
Second, and just as important, it requires no hardware changes for the Vive. This means that any HTC Vive already in the market, perhaps any future SteamVR-compatible headset even, could take advantage of this wireless transmitter out of the box while still keeping wired options open. It’s a win-win situation, that is if Quark VR can actually show how well this idea performs in practice.