HTC’s Vive VR headset gets unplugged via $220 wireless add-on

HTC’s PC-powered VR rig is set to get one of the plusses of cheaper mobile virtual reality systems early next year, after the company announced a wireless add-on that will let users untether the headset from the gaming PC required to power it.

So instead of worrying about getting feet tangled in the connector cable, Vive users will be able to roam around their room-sized gaming space freely, air-slashing bag guys and/or air-brushing virtual art works to feel even more immersed in a pixelated alt reality.

UploadVR saw a demo of the forthcoming upgrade kit, which is not made by HTC itself but rather by TPCAST: one of the first batch of startups to join HTC’s virtual reality accelerator, Vive X, when it opened its doors this summer.

The wireless add-on goes up for pre-order at 7am PT Friday (today), via Vive’s Chinese website, although quantities are said to be limited and priority will be given to existing customers with a valid Vive serial number (although there’s no restriction on international buyers beyond shipping cost).

It’s being priced at 1,499 RMB (~$220) plus shipping. Pre-orders will be fulfilled starting in Q1 2017.

The wireless add-on includes a standard battery that’s good for around one and a half hours of play, according to HTC’s China regional president, Alvin Graylin, who spoke to UploadVR after demoing the peripheral. He claims the wireless add-on results in no “noticeable difference” when it comes to things like latency — a crucial factor for VR given the risk of nausea from a degraded experience.

TPCAST is also apparently planning to offer a bigger battery eventually — which would sit in a user’s pocket, rather than on the back of the headset itself.

Commenting on the TPCAST a statement, Graylin added: “We are also very proud and supportive of teams that develop great accessories and game changing peripherals to the Vive ecosystem. The fact that this was developed in such a short time, and delivers such high quality is remarkable. It will allow Vive customers worldwide to gain untethered mobility in VR from their existing devices, while satisfying the biggest feature request of potential PC VR customers.”

As UploadVR notes, other wireless add-on kits for Vive are in the works, but TPCAST’s VIVE tether-less upgrade kit (preview edition), to give it its full name, looks set to be first to the punch.

And so the total cost of room-scale, untethered pro VR looks to come out at around $2,000 — which is: $800 for the Vive system, ~$950 for a gaming PC and $220 for the wireless add-on. So still a lot cheaper than a one-way ticket to Mars.