At E3 2017 the outlook for VR is stronger than ever, but even so, whether it's the HTC Vive, Oculus Rift or PS VR, they all have one shared factor we're willing away: that damn cable. In games that involved a lot of movement, I'm constantly fearful of tripping over it in games, and even when I'm not it's hard to ignore it's there, following me around like an annoying reminder that I'll eventually have to return to the godforsaken reality I came from.
But nestled in a small room in the corner of E3's West Hall, Intel has been showing off its wireless VR solution, which it's built with DisplayLink. I went along for a little taste of a wireless VR future - and damn, did it taste good.
The prototype felt very much like a, well, prototype at the moment, with exposed wires and the WiGig module, attached to the head strap, sat a little loose on top of my head. It was also quite weighty (the battery presumably being mostly to blame), but this isn't how the final version will necessarily feel.
HTC plans to bring this to market as an add-on for existing Vive owners, so you won't need to start saving up for a whole new headset. One engineer explained that the current battery can run for about three hours, but it will come down to HTC to decide what size battery it ends up using in the finished product. Intel said it thinks the final version will be more efficient than what it has now, but whether that will mean more battery or just something a bit smaller remains to be seen.
I was put into a game of Space Pirate Simulator, which was chosen a) because it requires a lot of fast movements and b) it's an easy jumping-in VR game. During my 10-minute play session of ducking, dodging and blasting enemy drones, not once did I notice any lag or other drop in quality. It felt and played exactly as it always has when it's been tethered, but now I was experiencing glorious, beautiful freedom. It actually worked.
Pause for a moment. What the hell WiGig even mean? This is a new wireless standard that keeps a latency below 7ms while running a wireless connection between the PC and headset. Intel explained that any added latency is offset by the headset maker and SteamVR bods by hiding it in the forecasting - basically they predict a little further ahead so you dont' notice any slowdown. You'll also need the transmitter card for your PC, which will presumably be sold with the adapter when the time comes.
For now, the plan to bring this to consumers is a bit up in the air - or HTC just isn't ready to share the info - but rest assured that it's coming. HTC's plan with the Vive right now is to update without iterating the core headset. It's doing this with the Trackers,eye tracking add-ons, and now its wireless solutions. The other bits can wait; now that I've tried true wireless high-end VR, I'm going to struggle going back to the cable.