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MIT's MoVR Lets HTC Vive, Oculus Rift VR Headsets Go Wireless Via Millimeter Waves

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Folks over at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology was able to develop a system that allows cordless integration of virtual reality headsets.

Today, VR headsets need to be connected to a rig to function seamlessly. This connection allows high-speed data transfers in order to pull high-resolution graphics without a hitch, but wired connections reduce the user's mobility, and there's a fat chance people might trip over these cords.

MIT's "MoVR" System

The "MoVR" System wants to push cords out of the equation, simplifying the process of a fully functioning VR headset and rig pairing. The MoVR system is an offspring by MIT's group of researchers from the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory.

"The ability to use a cordless headset really deepens the immersive experience of virtual reality and opens up a range of other applications," said Dina Katabi, an MIT professor who's part of the group that developed MoVR.

CSAIL administered tests that showed that the MoVR system can enable wireless, untethered communication of VR headsets with recorded speeds in the Gbps range. MoVR uses "millimeter waves," high-frequency radio signals believed by many experts to someday pave the way for 5G smartphones.

How The MoVR System Works

According to Adam Conner-Simons of CSAIL, a big limitation of current wireless technologies such as Wi-Fi is its incapacity to support advanced data processing.

Streaming high-resolution multi-view video wirelessly in real time is a challenge, according to Haitham Hassanieh, an assistant professor not involved with the project. He said that speeds of more than 6 Gbps is required to deliver a true wireless VR experience, a feat currently not possible with today's wireless technology. Others have jerry-rigged a solution for this using a VR "backpack," but a true wireless solution remains obscure.

MIT turned to millimeter waves to power the wireless technology. One downside of millimeter waves is that it doesn't fare well with obstructions or reflections. There must always be a line of sight between the transmitter and receiver for millimeter waves to function as intended.

To offset this hurdle, the researchers developed the MoVR system to act as a programmable mirror able to detect the direction of incoming millimeter wave signals. From there, it can change the angle of the signals toward the receiver.

"[A]ngles can be specifically programmed so that the mirror receives the signal from the mmWave transmitter and reflects it towards the headset, regardless of its actual direction," said Omid Abari who co-wrote the paper (PDF).

Could Wireless Be The Next Big Thing In VR?

There's no denying the boomlet of virtual reality experiences in recent years, with major players such as Sony, Google and even Atari keen to occupy the space as the technology continues to propel its individual inroads.

However, despite its progress, VR has largely remained inside a niche bubble, with experiences afforded to those who can afford the requirements needed for the technology to properly perform. For example, in full-fledged VR titles, you'll need a fairly expensive headset and a high-spec computer rig setup to allow seamless gameplay.

Surely, key players in the VR game are keenly looking at MIT's MoVR system. Hopefully, if developers work with MIT to sharpen its millimeter wave technology, we might finally be closer to true wireless VR experiences.

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