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Top 5 game-changing VR peripherals that are coming our way

By Anthony Lam - 22 Mar 2017

Top 5 game-changing VR peripherals that are coming our way

Roam. Touch. Smell.

Is that how VR will evolve? Check out five of the most game-changing VR peripherals to be excited about.   

1. TPCast

Image source: Road to VR.

Announced in November 2016 and unveiled at CES 2017, this tether-less upgrade kit for the HTC Vive has been available for pre-order since its original announcement, though only from HTC Vive’s Chinese online store. The TPCast is slated to go on sale worldwide in Q2 2017 for US$249 (~RM1,100). As of this writing, no regional pricing has been announced.

The unit includes the wireless receiver, transmitter, and one of two types of batteries,  depending on which model you buy. The default model comes with a battery capable of 90-120 minutes runtime, while the larger battery is capable of five hours. The TPCast will also be compatible with the upcoming Deluxe Audio Strap for the Vive. Reviewers who have experienced the developer versions have confirmed the TPCast’s latency is virtually indistinguishable from the Vive’s tethered setup.

On a related note, Valve’s Gabe Newell has said that he expects wireless VR to be 'an integrated feature' in 2018. Say goodbye to managing VR cables, and say hello to VR freedom! 

2. Tobii Eye Tracking

Image source: Road to VR.

Announced at CES 2017 and also showcased at GDC 2017 in San Francisco, Tobii eye tracking in VR aims to drastically improve social VR experience. The Sweden-based company has specialized in eye tracking inventions since 2001, and even the newest line of Alienware gaming notebooks come with Tobii eye tracking built in.

Aside from elevating human and social aspects in VR, the eye-tracking technology will be deployed from within a VR headset. A user’s gaze will be detected to provide better 3D stereoscopic rendering by adjusting the image to appear correctly based on the user’s eye positions. This prevents aliasing and artifacts whenever the HMD is inadvertently moved when on the user’s face. According to Tobii, we can expect to see a fully-developed version as early as the end of 2017 or early 2018. So keep your eye on this one!

3. Gloveone

Image source: Virtual Reality Reporter.

Created by NeuroDigital Technologies, which successfully raised over US$150,000 in funding through Kickstarter in the summer of 2015, the latest prototype utilizes Inertia Management Units (IMUs) to track each individual finger, as well as the entire arm of the user. 

Demoed at E3 2016 last year, these VR gloves allow the user to access all hand orientations (9-axis), weight virtual objects, differentiate textures, receive haptic warnings and alerts, interact with buttons and elements, and according to its website - 'feel the fluttering of a butterfly', as well as the impacts of 'rain drops.' With low latency via its USB and Bluetooth 4.0 modes, the Gloveone is certainly poised to bring VR users to the next level of immersion.

Other notable VR gloves in development include Manus VR, Hands Omni, and Senso. Senso most recently debuted its prototype glove at GDC 2017.

4. Vortx

Image source: Tom's Guide.

Originally demo'ed at last year's GDC and making a splash at this year's GDC is the Vortx environmental simulator by San Francisco startup WhirlwindVR

The environmental generator can simulate the elements, including controlled heat, wind and airflow for movement and stimulation, and pulse from trigger impacts, all in ultra-low latency. Like some of the devices on this list, however, industry adaptation will largely depend on whether enough developers embrace Vortx. If the Vortx catches on with developers, it could become the next game-changing VR peripheral. 

Limited quantities of the Vortx are currently available to developers, and the consumer version is scheduled to begin shipping in early 2017.

5. Vive Tracker

Image source: HTC.

Have you ever wished you could take an object from the real world into the virtual world? With HTC’s Vive Tracker, now you can. As one of the latest accessories for the HTC Vive that will be available to developers starting the last week of March, the Vive Tracker allows users to bring real objects into the virtual world by attaching the Vive Tracker onto any real object, allowing its real-world movement to be mapped in real-time as movement input within VR.

Based on the same technology as the HTC Vive's own controllers, the Vive Tracker’s position is calculated via infrared signals emitted from the base stations. Each Vive Tracker also conveniently features a standard camera mount for attaching to your real-world objects. 

The possibilities are literally endless. Development is underway to expand the types of real objects supported, and the supported types already include baseball bats, toy firearms, music instruments, cups (so that you wouldn’t have to remove your headset just to find that icy beverage), toy lightsabers, and pets (for safety).

What might be some of yours? 

About the Writer

Anthony is a writer and editor spanning multiple industries including tech, gaming, and aviation. An editor-in-chief by day and VR enthusiast by night, Anthony is a passionate and analytical gamer in a spectrum of genres, drawing from his experiences as an avid collector of over 1,500 video game titles.