Virtual reality headsets in the future will only need a single USB-C cable to connect to a PC for both power and data, compared with current versions that require multiple connections.
Making this possible is VirtualLink, a new specification that will allow one USB-C cable to replace the HDMI, USB, and power cables of VR headsets.
VR Rivals Work Together For VirtualLink
An industry consortium led by rivals in the virtual reality industry came up with the VirtualLink specification, which is based on the Alternate Mode of USB-C. Among the members of the group are Oculus, Valve, Microsoft, AMD, and Nvidia.
According to the consortium, VirtualLink looks to simplify and speed up the set-up time for VR headsets, while solving key obstacles to the adoption of the technology such as the issue of tangled cables. By reducing several cables to one USB-C cable, VirtualLink also opens up the option to plug VR headsets into smaller devices that have fewer ports, such as laptops, though they will still need to be powerful enough to support the technology.
Bypassing the tangled wires problem has been one of the major selling points of smartphone-powered VR headsets such as the Samsung Gear VR. The rumored Apple VR/AR headset, expected to launch in 2020, is also looking to go wireless. However, while wireless headsets do solve the issue, they come with the limitation of weaker processing power, compared with wired virtual reality headsets connected to powerful PC that can deliver high-end VR experiences.
VirtualLink, on the other hand, will look to provide the best of both worlds, with VR headsets connected to powerful machines without the problem of tangled wires.
When Will VirtualLink Be Released?
The consortium of virtual reality industry rivals took the big first step of coming together to create and introduce the VirtualLink specification. However, as it stands, the technology is still very young.
The group published an advanced overview of VirtualLink for companies that would like to take advantage of it ahead of its version 1.0 launch. However, it will be a while after that before virtual reality headsets start using the technology. It should also be pointed out that HTC is not yet included in the group, so it is still unclear if VirtualLink will arrive to the HTC Vive.
The advantage of Virtual Link, however, is crystal clear. It will make the technology accessible to more people and will help push VR headsets into the mainstream, goals that are important enough to make industry rivals work together.