Virtual reality headsets of the future will soon only need a single cable to connect to a PC. Rather than requiring a multitude of cables for today’s PC-based VR experiences, an industry consortium led by Nvidia, Oculus, Valve, AMD, and Microsoft wants to simplify connecting VR headsets with PCs by using the new VirtualLink specification, which relies on a single USB-C connector on the headset. VirtualLink is based on the Alternate Mode of USB-C, and it allows future headsets to replace the HDMI, USB, and power cables with a single cable in the future.
“VirtualLink enables next-generation VR headsets to connect with a PC or other device using a single, high-bandwidth USB Type-C connector,” the consortium said in a statement. “That includes support for four lanes of HBR3 DisplayPort for high-resolution displays, USB3.1 Gen2 SuperSpeed for headset cameras and sensors, and up to 27 watts of power delivery.”
Similar to how USB-C can handle video, USB data, and power on today’s laptops and desktops, the VirtualLink standard’s single USB-C cable will simplify the VR experience and cut down on cable clutter. A single cable will be easier and quicker for consumers to set up, reducing any friction to VR adoption.
Described as a connectivity standard that was purpose-built for virtual reality, VirtualLink claims that the connector is optimized to reduce latency and handle VR’s bandwidth demands. The standard could also help PC-based virtual reality, augmented reality, and mixed reality experiences compete against mobile-first devices, like Samsung’s Oculus-based Gear VR headset, which relies on a smartphone, rather than a PC.
Additionally, whereas today’s virtual reality experiences are limited to PCs that can handle multiple connectors, relying on a single cable will help VirtualLink bring virtual reality to more form factors, like thin and light notebooks and other small-form-factor devices.
While serious VR and AR experiences will still require more advanced processors and graphics chips, casual PC users won’t need to get HP’s Omen X backpack, for example, to get started with VR. Given Microsoft’s involvement, it may be just a matter of time before we see VirtualLink crop up on a future Windows Mixed Reality headset. “We have been involved on VirtualLink from the beginning and are supportive of industry-standard approaches for emerging Windows experiences including mixed reality,” Microsoft Mixed Reality general manager Scott Evans said.
Given that this is a new standard, only future headsets that support USB-C will be able to take advantage of single-cable benefit of VirtualLink.