2016 was the year that virtual reality hit the mainstream. PlayStation VR brought acceptable quality, immersive experiences to the living room, but the long-awaited consumer iteration of the Oculus Rift brought higher detail to PC gamers, as did the room-scale Vive. But all those headsets are tethered, so you're dragging a decidedly physical cable around the virtual world with you.
At CES 2017 in Las Vegas, though — kicking off in less than a week — HTC will reportedly show off a completely wireless Vive. With higher-res screens, to boot.
Reports from Taiwan's state-owned Central News Agency, which we spotted via Android Headlines, suggest that the Vive 2 — if you want to call it that — will have some impressive specs. Impressive to the point of seeming unrealistically optimistic, if you ask me: we're talking twin 4K displays with 120Hz refresh rates, all running entirely wirelessly with no hardline connection (either HDMI or USB) from headset to PC.
Considering that the original Vive (and Rift)'s 2160x1200p 90Hz screens required a fair bit of bespoke hardware development in the first place, what would be a quantum leap to a pair of 30 per cent faster screens, displaying four times the detail, operating wirelessly without introducing unplayably terrible and vomit-inducing lag... I'd file this particular rumour under F for fantastic.
Not to mention how much extra computing power twin 4K displays would require to run at native resolution at 120Hz. That's entirely out of the realm of possibility for any consumer desktop gaming PC, SLI'd GTX 1080s or no. Even if Nvidia announces a newer and more powerful graphics card at CES as some outlets have suggested it might — and to be honest, my bet is a focus on self-driving tech and AI instead — there's no architecture in the works that could push that many pixels.
Nvidia has told us in the past that VR requires at least a 10 per cent overhead on top of a regular display, and depending on the application that can rise to as much as 25 per cent extra horsepower required. Considering that a single 4K display takes a hell of a lot of grunt to run at a smooth 60 frames per second, two displays at twice the frames is the stuff of dreams.
Now, we do know that HTC will be talking about something at CES — the company is hosting a VR 'happy hour' event and has a couple of press conferences scheduled where it'll be talking about, in its own words, "the future of VR". The gadgetmaker also has a local event planned for mid-January where it will announce something "for U". I'll give you a shiny penny if you can work out what that might be. Vive U? Maybe. A new flagship smartphone? Some continuation of its partnership with Under Armour? Who knows.
Both Kotaku and Gizmodo will be on the ground at CES, and we're both heading to a couple of meetings with the guys from HTC, so we'll let you know what we see. [Android Headlines]