Qualcomm’s Concept VR Headset Can Stream Content From a PC

Qualcomm’s Concept VR Headset Can Stream Content From a PC

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Qualcomm is opening the door for standalone VR headsets that can wirelessly stream content from PCs.

At GDC, the company is demoing its “Boundless XR” technology, which Qualcomm says can stream VR content over 5G networks and do the same for PC-based VR units.

The setup involves sending the VR content from a PC through a wireless router, which then broadcasts the data to a headset fitted with a Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 chip and a Wi-Fi 802.11ad antenna.

We briefly tried out Qualcomm’s concept device, and it actually works. We used the headset like any other VR product and roamed around in a virtual sci-fi world, picking up and placing objects.

Qualcomm Boundless VR

All the content was rendered with the graphics you’d expect from a PC-powered Oculus Rift title. But not once did we have to worry about tripping over a cable. Nor did we encounter any lag. Instead, we were free to move about because all the content was streamed over the air.

The whole system works by first leveraging the computing power onboard the headset, which can perform some of the VR processes, such as Time warping, a latency-reducing effect. But for the graphics rendering, the headset will offload the workload to the PC, which then streams back the finished content into the wearer’s field of view.

The setup essentially takes the best of both worlds by leveraging mobile VR computing and melding it with PC-based virtual reality hardware, Qualcomm said. In addition, the headset uses built-in tracking onboard the headset. So we were able to move around, without the need to rely on external sensors.

However, one limitation is the technology’s range: To stream the content from the PC, the wireless router requires a line-of-sight with the headset. As result, our VR experience was confined to one room.

However, if you did have to leave the room, your VR experience could continue. Qualcomm’s concept would allow the computer onboard to take over the graphics processing as you move away from the PC, but of course the quality will dip.

boundless vr

Unfortunately, our time with the technology was short and limited to a basic game. But Qualcomm’s system clearly has the potential to shake up the VR industry, when many of the leading VR headsets must be tethered to the PC.

According to Qualcomm, one vendor is already working to bring the technology to a real headset. The company, Pico Interactive, is slated to launch a new headset, the Neo 2, that’ll support the wireless tethering in this year’s second half. HTC is also working on supporting the technology on the Vive.

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