This week, Facebook’s Oculus VR announced that it will release a $199 VR headset next year that doesn’t require a phone, a Windows PC or even wires attached to anything to operate. That’s a far cry from the $399 flagship Oculus Rift, a very powerful piece of equipment that requires a tether to a nearby computer.
With wireless technology advancing so quickly, why does VR gear like the Oculus Rift or HTC’s Vive need cables at all? The answer is that for higher-end VR headsets, the graphical horsepower required to power those experiences is not yet small enough to be contained in the headset itself. And it’s so much data being transmitted, that wireless technology doesn’t currently have the bandwidth to get that data over quickly and consistently enough, even within the same room. Wires are a problem that Oculus founder Palmer Luckey said a few years ago would be a major obstacle to VR adoption.
The Oculus announcement of a self-contained VR headset means the company must have confidence that it’s solved some of these tethering problems. We’ll find out next year, if not sooner.
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