Virtual reality headsets have made significant improvements over the past five years and are poised to take an even greater step forward in the next five years due to advances in computer graphics and display technology. Next-generation wireless technology is the missing link in the next generation of VR development, as contemporary wireless VR hardware cannot meet the smooth immersion that users expect.
Many Siggraph exhibitors were showing new products that use third-party VR headsets, including major manufacturers such as Intel. One notable exception was AMD, which demonstrated a VR shooter through a demo labeled “ray tracing and wireless VR. An AMD representative pointed out that the PC is equipped with not just one, but two new Radeon graphics cards, plus a dedicated wireless router, so it can achieve an uninterrupted streaming connection with the Vive Focus Plus.
It’s worth highlighting that both the headset and router use contemporary Wi-Fi – 802.11ac, also known as Wi-Fi 5. HTC and other companies have been selling wireless adapters based on 802.11ay’s WiGig, which uses millimeter-wave connectivity to provide a high-bandwidth, low-latency alternative.
On the cellular side, one of the key selling points of 5G is the significant reduction in latency, making the connection between the service and the receiving device virtually instantaneous under the right conditions. Even if the computer doing the rendering is not in your home, virtually compute-free VR headsets should benefit from a level of pixel-level detail and responsiveness that is currently only possible over a physical connection. A headset that combines 5G streaming with its own computational power may be better.
Wi-Fi will look more sophisticated. the Wi-Fi 6/802.11ax standard effectively improves on the Wi-Fi 5 / 802.11ac experience that users have known for years, using the same wireless spectrum (2.4GHz and 5GHz) to deliver greater bandwidth to more devices at the same time. This is useful for providing all the graphic details realistic VR needs. Wi-Fi 6 may reportedly reduce latency by 75% compared to Wi-Fi 5, but 802.11 engineers are still working on standards that can meet or exceed 5G millisecond response times.