Welcome to the Wild Wireless West! Wild Wirewest? Aw heck, it ain’t worth gettin’ a hitch in your giddyup over my dad-joke puns.
Wireless VR is here, no doubt about it, and wireless gaming is the future. It’s going to come in a variety of colors, flavors, and styles and if I could pick the right horse to bet on I’d be a rich man. The reality is, however, I don’t think anyone knows who’s going to come out on top of what is the most insane tech scramble since the cellular telephone. Let’s go over the contestants, or more accurately, the methods.
Somewhere, someone thought this was a good idea.
Connected to an in-home central unit
The current winners are certainly right here. The idea is simple: The VR unit (or any TV/device) acts as a conduit, receiving a nearby signal from your gaming console or PC. All the heavy lifting is done by your existing hardware, so all the VR unit needs to do is receive the signal. Current contenders, like the HTC Vive Wireless add-on or the potentially upcoming Qualcomm VR headset make use of this model. In March it appears Sony filed a patent for a wireless PSVR headset as well, which would likely use the eventual Playstation 5 as the central processing source. And of course, for non-VR even the simple Steambox works pretty well for this!
Sony's patent diagram for the PS5 VR unit.
The advantage is the VR unit is agnostic to your setup. This means you can upgrade your home hardware and keep your VR unit. It means your VR gear won’t have to be upgraded as often as your PC, though the big risk is that better displays, controls, and peripherals may mean you’ll still end up upgrading anyway. In theory, you may also save on price and longer battery life, since these items don’t need their own processors. That said, at the moment most of the VR units like the Vive and Index are actually the most expensive on the market, so time will tell if the cost savings of removing components from complete setups becomes the reality or if they simply use that space to add more (expensive) bells and whistles.
Completely Standalone VR
There’s a LOT of hype right now on incoming new units like the Oculus Quest and far less powerful Oculous Go, and interestingly the same Qualcomm VR headset above apparently also has this mode. The idea is that if you put the whole computer into the VR headset, optimized entirely for VR function, you can create a VR unit that doesn’t require ALSO buying an expensive console or PC. Certainly, we accept that these units will never have the graphical power of, say, a gaming PC rig. They probably won’t even have the specs of a PS5 anytime soon either. That all said, it’s not hard to believe you can hit the power of a Nintendo Switch with this model. We could see great success from a platform like this if movies/TV (like NextVR), VR chat, and more simple “Switch” sized games take off.
Looks so good it's almost easy to forget they're owned by Facebook...
The disadvantage is equally clear. As technology progresses these units will quickly become outdated, needing to be replaced (likely entirely, unless they’re going to start letting people remove and replace components). They’ll also never be “cutting edge.”
Despite that, these seem to be the most reasonably priced units coming to market, with the Oculus Quest starting at less than half the price of a Valve Index. Yowza!
Streamed From Cloud
It may sound like a pipe-dream, and so far it has been, but with players like Google getting into the mix things may finally be getting serious. The idea is actually not complex: Have a central server do all the processing and just stream the graphics to your device, then send the inputs (your controller) back to the server. The advantage is clear, your VR or even non-VR device simply becomes a screen to which data is relayed. This operates just like the tethered example above except you no longer have to pay for the initial hardware. That expense will become some kind of monthly fee, most likely. Services like Google’s Stadia or the already available Shadow are going to be making a lot of noise in the coming year.
The Shadow Ghost acts as the input for your devices. Basically, it's a Steambox for the cloud.
The whole premise is not without its flaws. It’s going to be deceptively expensive, and here’s why: First, you’re going to need moderately fast internet. Shadow says 15mbps, but I am a little worried that would be pretty low for 4K gaming in VR. In my area the next plan up increases the cost by $30/month (from 20mbps to 60mbps). Then there are shadow’s fees (Not to pick on them, but they’re the only ones currently available that I know of) which are another $30 per month (Billed annually). So potentially you need the VR hardware and are shelling out upwards of $60/month. That’s enough to build a decent PC every year! Even if you can get away with your existing internet, at $30/month you could still build that decent PC every 2 years and be dead even. It is currently unclear what Stadia will cost. Oh, and you’ll still probably need a PC in your home for other stuff so… don’t think you’re even saving all that PC build cash, though maybe you'll save a couple hundred on graphics cards.
It does come with some extra advantages though. They offer the ability to stream interactive content to anything. More than just VR, you can basically potentially be playing AAA games on your phone screen, TV, tablet, or anything else we may invent… or still probably just stream it to your PC. I mean, you didn’t spend all that money on a gaming chair for nothing!
So who wins?
No matter who ends up winning this VR tech race or what method they use to get there, the ModMic Wireless is going to be ready to ensure your whole setup remains wire-free. The long range ensures that the ModMic Wireless will work even if the PC is in the next room and our USB receiver is compatible with every upcoming VR headset we’re aware of. So why wait? Enjoy the future-proof wireless mic solution that has taken the VR world by storm!