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HTC Vive Going Wireless In 2017 With TPCAST Wireless Tether Upgrade Kit

HTC China partnered with TPCAST to offer an upgrade kit for the HTC Vive that replaces the wired tether with a wireless transmission system. HTC officially endorsed the product, and the company will sell it on the Vive website.

Valve and HTC released the Vive room-scale VR system just seven short months ago. The Vive currently offers the most complete VR experience that you can get, but as amazing as the system is, the Vive has one undeniable disadvantage: the tether. Room-scale VR is an indescribably immersive experience—until you trip on the cable and fall to the ground, or pull the headset off your face.

There’s no question that a tether-free experience would be superior, but latency is a major concern for comfortable VR experiences. The Vive operates at 90Hz, which translates to 13ms of motion-to-photon latency. A dramatic increase from that metric would have a negative impact on the user experience, which is why the Vive has a tether in the first place. Multiple companies are working on solving the problem, though.

At the end of August, a company called Quark VR announced that it is working with Valve to create a Wi-Fi-based wireless system for the Vive, and Intel is toying with wireless HMDs, but it appears another company called TPCAST beat them all to the punch by working directly with HTC.

The kit includes a wireless transmitter box that replaces the Vive’s link box and a wireless receiver that attaches to the upper strap of the HTC Vive headset. The TPCAST wireless system transmits the HDMI and USB signal to the headset, which is powered by a rechargeable battery pack that hangs on the back of the head strap. TPCAST said it would offer multiple different capacity battery packs that provide 2-5 hours of tether-free VR.

TPCAST didn’t give a specific launch date, but the wireless Vive accessory isn’t vaporware; the company plans to ship a limited run of wireless systems in Q1 2017, and HTC China handled the pre-orders through its website.

HTC China offered the TPCAST Wireless Vive upgrade kit for CNY 1,499 (approximately USD $220), but quantities were low and the kit sold out quickly. There’s no word on when, or if, HTC will offer the wireless upgrade kit to North American or European customers. The market is hungry for wireless VR, though, so we expect the product will make its way to US shores sooner than later.

Kevin Carbotte is a Contributing Writer for Tom's Hardware US. He writes news and reviews of graphics cards and virtual reality hardware.