“That is the future,” said Oculus Rift creator Palmer Luckey. “The future is going to be embedded chipsets embedded into the headset that don’t require a link to any kind of external hardware. And it’s going to become possible, I don’t know when, it’s hard to predict when.”
Believe it or not, some people are already living in Palmer Luckey’s future. Wireless virtual reality (VR) headsets are already in development, and quite aggressively at that. For every trade show in which Luckey and co steal headlines with announcements and demos, GameFace Labs CEO Edward Mason can also be found working tirelessly to promote the GameFace wireless headset. It’s an Android-based device that uses processors found in smartphones and tablets to power videogames without any kind of connection to a PC or something along those lines.
But is GameFace Labs’ underdog the early coming of Palmer’s Luckey’s future? From what I’ve experienced of the headset myself, based on a model that was admittedly a few prototypes older than what’s recently been shown at the Silicon Valley Virtual Reality (SVVR) Conference & Expo 2014, there’s certainly potential.
Currently-existing hardware simply doesn’t allow for high-end contemporary videogames on a wireless VR headset. With the GameFace in the state I used it in, it’s perhaps best to image it as if VR had been introduced during the later stages of the PlayStation 2 era of the industry. Experiences available on the device didn’t boast the pristine, life like visuals we’ve come to expect from high-end PCs and the latest consoles, but you can afford the device this caveat based on its wireless nature. Think Halo instead of Halo 4.
Using an unteathered device certainly feels more liberating than strapping an Oculus on with the knowledge that a wire is tying you to a bulky rig a meter or so away. It’s not an immediately obvious sensation; I had to be reminded that my head was free to duck and dive without the worry of pulling on something expensive, but knowing that nothing’s there helps put the mind at ease somewhat.
Based on early impressions with earlier hardware, the GameFace serves as a promising first glimpse into a future that’s still a little further down the line. The important thing is that GameFace Labs is intent on pursuing that future, constantly updating its prototype hardware. The company is set to show off its Mark V model at this year’s E3, complete with Nvidia’s powerful Tegra K1 chip that boasts the power of the PlayStation 3 and then some. We look forward to seeing how much further into the future we’ve gone.