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USB-C Gets a VR Alt Mode


TwinIon
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Current PC based VR headsets like the Vive and Rift require three connections: power, USB, and video (currently HDMI). With the announcement of a new "VirtualLink" standard, future headsets will be able to rely on just a single USB-C connection. VirtualLink is a new alt mode for USB-C that will carry enough video bandwidth for 4K@120hz along with a USB 3.1 data channel and 27W of power.

 

On the surface, it seems great. Current VR setups are unwieldy and this does something to help mitigate that. Unfortunately, there are some big roadblocks. First of all the major manufacturers need to actually adopt this standard before wireless or standalone headsets take over the market. Then the standard needs to actually find some support. While some OEMs have toyed with the idea of putting a USB-C connector capable of Displayport Alt mode on video cards, that's a pretty simple change. They're basically just taking the pins that would go to a DP out and putting a USB-C connector on there. For VirtualLink to work it'll need extra power available and either a USB 3.1 controller or header on the video card. That's a few different changes that don't benefit anyone that isn't using a VirtualLink compatible VR headset.

 

Inclusion on laptops seems slightly easier, but it also means one more flavor of USB-C you'll be finding on some machines, most of which won't support it.

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