Technology 3 min read

VirtualLink Succeeds in Creating Universal Connector for VR Headsets

AR and VR companies have taken a number of big leaps forward in the past few months. Now, they may be set to take the world by storm. | Image by Andrush | Shutterstock

AR and VR companies have taken a number of big leaps forward in the past few months. Now, they may be set to take the world by storm. | Image by Andrush | Shutterstock

All of the major players in VR have successfully adopted a universal connector, making it easier than ever to pick up and play in a virtual world. 

Remember when every phone company had its own brand of charging port? Remember those drawers full of spare phone chargers that never seemed to actually work for your own phone? The world of VR headsets is going through a similar struggle today.

In the gaming and entertainment world, VR headsets are now the norm. Industry forerunners like the HTC Vive and Oculus Rift aren’t the only VR headsets on the market anymore.

In fact, the list keeps growing every year with new technologies enhancing the VR experience. But until now, there hasn’t been a singular connection uniting all of the different headset types and manufacturers.

What are the companies at the forefront of the new universal connector adoption?

Leveraging Current Technology to Reinvent the Wheel

Major players in the VR world including Nvidia, Valve, AMD, Microsoft, and Oculus all invested in the new universal connector. These companies also assert that the new connection type will become ubiquitous across many VR headset models.

Known as “VirtualLink”, the open industry standard uses USB-C ports to function.

Beyond optimization for latency, a single link provides a few things:

  • up to 27 watts of power
  • a USB3.1 data channel for any onboard cameras
  • up to four high-speed HBR3 DisplayPort lanes

This matters because many major headsets today need up to three plugs on cable ends.

With VirtualLink, VR headsets can support higher resolutions and displays with higher refresh rates. The increased power volume also makes the technology a bit more “future-proof” regarding new VR headset models. No external power sources are needed either.

The USB-C connector can even enable VR headset use for other devices. This includes more compact devices like light notebooks that might not have full-sized USB ports. Perhaps smartphone and tablet support is not far behind either.

This comes as an immense boon in further integrating VR as a teaching tool.

How Tech “Consortiums” can Work for Everyone

VirtualLink might not have happened if all those major VR players hadn’t banded together.

The VirtualLink Consortium clearly states its goal on its website. Moreover, it seems to have accomplished these goals for the time being. But the chief takeaway is the new “open standard” in hopes to “accelerate the development and implementation” of new VR tech.

This comes as a bit of a surprise due to a rumor surrounding GPU kingpin Nvidia.

Before the VirtualLink’s conception, some VR headset manufacturers considered hooking straight into a computer’s graphics processing unit. Road to VR covered a rumor that Nvidia would be producing GPU models with these kinds of connections.

The consortium will release more details soon, but companies interested in more information can reach out to them via the website.

What other technologies could USB-C ports streamline and make more accessible?

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Juliet Childers

Content Specialist and EDGY OG with a (mostly) healthy obsession with video games. She covers Industry buzz including VR/AR, content marketing, cybersecurity, AI, and many more.

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