valve index wireless adapter

Valve Index Wireless Adapter is Coming. Here is Why:

Currently, there are no ways to play Valve Index without a cable. Valve Index wireless adapter is a popular request for users, but there are no official devices, or modded solutions available that can let that happen.

There is something lurking around the corner though…

Why doesn’t Index Have Wireless Solution Right Now?

We all want to have it as fast as possible. Unfortunately, technology doesn’t grow as fast as our needs. At least the allowance of such technology. I’ll explain more below.

valve index wireless adapter - doesn't have a solution

Right now, Valve Index has problems with Wireless adapters most likely due to the amount of data it needs to receive. Compared to Vive HMD’s, Valve Index works on a higher refresh rate, a higher field of view, and higher resolution. All that requires a lot more data than Vive. Of course, the data transmission rate is only part of the requirement for true wireless gaming.

To play without wires, Valve needs to concern itself with latency, jitter, the distance of the signal, and the mobility of the Valve Index. The latter is not mentioned a lot, but it’s actually a formidable opponent to creators of required signals like 802.11ay. But before delving deeper into all that, here is what Valve said about wireless solutions.

What Our God Gaben Has Said

When Valve Index was released in June 2019, Gabe Newell (known as Gaben) decided to come out in flip-flops in his warehouse. There were dozens of journalists there, patiently waiting for Newell to say something. And so the Gaben has spoketh…

… There are obvious ways for us to lower the cost (of Valve Index), there are obvious ways to make the product lighter – we can improve the ergonomics. But then we get to more speculative issues. We are looking at several methods of doing untethered Index, we have a lot of ideas for kind of revolutionary things to do with the display and optical technology…

This is the only time that untethered or wireless gaming has been mentioned from their mouths.

But, there have been some breadcrumbs that could suggest that Valve is testing wireless gaming on their platform. Back in May 2019, Steam (owned by Valve) released a SteamVR update. At the end of the log, there is a line:

  • Fixed startup crash when trying to use wireless on unsupported hardware.

valve index wireless adapter - mention in steamvr Update

That could mean many things. For one, they could be testing the cross-usability of available wireless adapters on their platform. Or two, they want the community to have as few hurdles as possible to figure out a solution themselves.

That is not uncommon.

There are many examples where a community takes things further by releasing their work through mods. If anyone is well aware of that, it is Valve.

What Options Valve Has With Untethered Gaming

To be real, there are plenty of methods of doing that. Gabe knows that. One of the most known methods everyone is talking about is using the technology of 5G. People that follow the growth of 5G, are aware of the benefits it brings.

Its main selling point is the improved latency = 1ms.

valve index wireless adapter - 5G option

That by itself already tackles the biggest problem with the ‘no cable’ headsets. Of course, we can transfer the feed from PC to our headsets with the current technology, but we would be throwing up at the same time. Bad latency is one of the big causes of VR motion sickness.

5G isn’t selling data speed, it is selling the quickness, the reactiveness. It will be used in enabling new types of services – a drone flying through a mobile network or remote construction work without even needing to be present – reaction time for all electronics is basically going to be much faster. It sounds like it’s a match made in heaven for VR.

Update: Upon reviewing further, 5G may still have problems with latency, as long as the connection between the receiver inside your VR headset and 5G server (that can be anywhere in your area) is as it currently is – which is far from fast. The only way to get somewhere close to what it sells is if providers of telecommunications services do the correct job at optimizing and updating their servers for VR. So as it’s still in its youth days, it is hard to say if 5G is up to the job.

There is a catch though. Latency is just part of the problem. As was mentioned above, you need to solve:

  • Latency – Less than 5ms is required for VR. 5G got that covered may potentially have that covered.
  • Data transmission rate – How much data it can carry per second.  As 20Gbs is needed, 5G may struggle.
  • Jitter – less than 5ms needed. No data on 5G yet.
  • Transmission range – at least 5 meters. Not much data here but probably not a problem for 5G.
  • Device mobility – Basically, how fast can you move your head without losing the signal. Around 4km/h is required for VR. 5G can do it 500km/h.

Most of these points are in favor of 5G. But, as you see, the data transmission rate is playing with fire a bit. As was reported by Minseok Oh when he did his analysis on Wireless Transmission Technologies, it’s said that 20Gbps is needed for VR. That is a high number.

valve index wireless adapter - a VR table comparing different wireless signals

In reality, it can actually work on a lot less if we do some form of compression. That is evident from Vive Wireless Adapter. It uses around 6Gbps-10Gbps, depending on how much it compresses. But, it doesn’t use 5G for that. It uses WiGig technology in partnership with Intel.

Meet IEEE 802.11ay

Here is where the names start to get a bit confusing.

WiGig has been working on high-frequency Wifi signals for a long time now. It started with 802.11ax and ad versions. Although ax succeeded in many breakthroughs, the shortcomings in VR were apparent as well. That’s why they probably thought ‘ayyy lmao’, let’s make 802.11ay.

And so, 60GHz mm-Wave bond was announced in May 2015. That is around the same time that VR started to break out of its niche shell.

All these numerical names are a bit confusing, so let me make a summary:

  • 802.11ac – The approval for it started in 2008. It is also known as Wi-Fi 5. It can transfer data at a speed of 3.2Gbps. It’s not enough for VR.
  • 802.11ax – It is known as the predecessor to Wi-Fi 5, so it is called WiFi 6. It has been announced in October 2016 but is still waiting to be approved in Q1 2020 (update: it has been approved in Feb. 2021). Which means right now. These things tend to be pushed back in date, that’s why it has taken so long. Its main selling point is being able to deliver a constant speed to people in offices where lots of people are using the same network. Its transfer speed is improved over Wi-Fi 5, but it may not be enough. However, according to in Feb 2021, “The Wi-Fi Alliance states that Wi-Fi 6E will be particularly suitable for augmented and virtual reality”. Time will tell.
  • 802.11ad – For some reason, WiGig decided not to have a simpler name for it.  Although it uses an extremely high frequency of 60GHz, it is still not good enough for VR.
  • 802.11ay – This one is the predecessor to the .ad version. It has been rumored that it was made specifically for VR.  It has low latency, an extremely high data transmission rate (up to 100Gbps), and a decent transmission range as well as mobility.

Although there is not much information on it, 802.11ay is actually what Intel and WiGig use for Vive wireless adapter signal. That is also what the competitor TPCast uses. Even though the official approval for such signals has been ratified only recently (in fall 2019), if HMD makers or partners have a required license, they can use it sooner.

Does 802.11ay Wireless Signal Have Any Drawbacks?

802.11ay seemed to have a small problem with the latency (10ms) when used with VR, but it’s apparent that Vive makers managed to improve it to a point where the latency is not very noticeable.

Another interesting thing to note is that the 60GHz wave is really bad at penetrating stuff. That’s why when you use a wireless Vive Kit, you have to make sure there is nothing in-between the adapter and receiver. Even if your mom brought cookies to you, that could make the signal less stable.

valve index wireless adapter - wigig 802.11.ay works bad in different rooms
WiGig 802.11ay doesn’t work well with walls

That is also why future routers will not be using the 802.11ay technology and will opt for 802.11ax instead. 5GHz penetrates walls much easier, allowing it to serve the whole house if needed, despite giving less data speed.

Which is Perfect for Valve Index?

Although the latency of 5G is awesome, Valve requires a lot of data to be pushed through, so that makes 802.11ay more favorable.

valve index wireless adapter - perfect solution

Why haven’t they used the technology already? That is hard to say.

It could be because they ran into some problems. Maybe Valve has difficulties finding someone to partner up with. Vive partnered with Intel for that. Apple partnered with Qualcomm to bring 802.11ay to future iPhones. Facebook, the Owner of Oculus, has partnered with Qualcomm back in 2018 also so that they could bring 60GHz to urban areas. Maybe that is the start of trying to implement the Rift Wireless System to the VR Kit.

In conclusion, there are many different avenues for Valve to choose from. Although the ratification of such technology has taken a lot of time, it seems that it has finally been approved in 2020, and Valve can freely use the 60GHz frequency for their HMD.

I believe we will have some news in 2020 about that, and possibly something coming out in 2021 for us, VR people. 802.11ay is perfect for Valve and allows us to carry even 4K data in-between the headset and PC, which is perfect for not only this generation of Valve Index but for the next one as well.

Update 2021: Lately, Valve has a new patent, and according to the online patent, it features a new head strap, with a ton of adjustment and comfort features. The most notable change is that the backside area could potentially be for battery, which may point to a wireless system.

Here is a picture of the new head strap:

valve index wireless system patent

Stay tuned for more news about that. Comment below if anything!

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