Signal is probably our most complex prototype to date, at least when you look at the physical setup. As it became clear that this prototype would get shown many more times, I looked into reducing this complexity with the help of TPCast.
If Signal has plenty of anything, it’s cables. Cables wherever you look. USB cables, HDMI cables, network cables, audio cables, power cables, … There is no escape. You might remember the following picture from the Galaxy setup in Barcelona:
To be clear, this is not the problem. Our main concern is the connection from the mess pictured above to the VR headset. That cable harness consists of three different cables, which not only adds additional weight to the user’s head. It also has the habit of getting in the way and limiting the operating range of the users.
That’s where TPCast comes in, as it replaces the cable that goes to the VR headset with two wireless connections. One transmits the image and the other one serves as a channel for control signals. You have to wear a battery pack to power the headset and the receiver, but still you gain a lot of freedom by removing the cables. The image quality and latency was really good and the wireless transmission was not easily interrupted.
As mentioned above, the cable harness consisted of three cables, namely the original Vive cable (HDMI, Power, USB) an additional USB cable and a combined headphones/microphone cable. But the TPCast can only replace the cable for the Vive itself. It would also transmit the sound, but we need the input from the microphone as well. So, we’d have to switch to a wireless headset here as well (e.g. Bluetooth).
But one problem remains and that is the additional USB cable. We need that to connect the Leap Motion to the computer, which enables us to track the hands in VR. The USB connection however is not part of the TPCast transmission, which is a show-stopper for us. That’s why we had to send this device back with a heavy heart, hoping that someday this feature would get added. (In the meantime, an improved version and also a new generation of TPCast have been announced, but apparently both still don’t support USB.)