A few days ago I had the opportunity to grab a TPCast and install it on my home office Vive. Here are my thoughts:
- Lots of parts, clunky. Battery+holder, receiver, transmitter, router (why?)
- Setup was easier than expected. Pretty much plug in everything, install the TPCast software.
- Had some issues that went away after a reboot
- Exhilarating feeling of freedom without the tether. Mind blowing really.
- Very quickly realized I have nowhere to keep the battery. I usually VR in my underwear
- Transmitter makes a very annoying squeal / buzz when it’s working
- I see a green bar at the very edge of peripheral vision on the right side. I increased my FOV on my Vive by using a thin facepad. With the stock facepad the green bar is not visible, but it’s really hard to go back to stock FOV.
- I did not see a reduction in image quality or lag
- I did notice some jitterness with motion-intensive games like SoundBoxing. I can’t put my finger on exactly what is the difference, but it’s not as smooth as tethered. But again, only with very active games.
- The Vive microphone is not supported, nor is the headset camera or extra USB port.
I’m now back to good old tether. Why? It’s just.. clunky. A collection of small annoyances. The battery in my pocket. The annoying buzz. The green bar glowing just outside my view. The extra tripod for the transmitter and extra cables for the router. Having to charge my headset. None of these is a huge deal, but put together.. I decided to go back to tethered.
UPDATE – Nov 2, 2017
The great people of Opentpcast are working to solve some of these issues, I understand that the microphone is now working, and the camera very soon (for owners of the newer batches of Vives). Also they managed to improve tracking and reduce jitters. Check it out here: https://github.com/OpenTPCast/Docs
In addition, I’ve seen unconfirmed reports that the US version of TPCast eliminates the annoying transmitter whine. I’ll update this post when more information becomes available.
UPDATE – Dec 21, 2017
My TPCast sat in a box for a few weeks, until I decided I want to use it in an upcoming demo. I tried on two different laptops and couldn’t get it to work. Swapped cables, used display port instead of HDMI, bypassed the linkbox, tried older versions of TPCast assistant, talked to support, nothing helped. Eventually I gave up and installed OpenTPCast. And it worked. Just like that. I setup two vives in the same space, using a single pair of basestations, and did a direct comparison between a tethered vive and a TPCast’ed vive. My thoughts:
- Going untethered is still exhilarating
- Tracking is noticeably affected, for the worse. Occasional visible jitters, jumps and pauses.
- Display sporadically flickers in and out of low-resolution / high-compression mode. Visible compression artifacts will appear for a fraction of a second.
- OpenTPCast uses VirualHere for the USB-over-wifi. VirtualHere requires a license, which is $25 USD.
- Green and blue bars at the edge of vision are still there.
- It made me sick! I’m not sure if it’s the jitters or some kind of lag that is visually unnoticeable and affected me over time. After walking around for a few minutes I started feeling a hint of queasy, which has not happened to me in VR for a long while.
UPDATE – Jan 2, 2017
I decided to throw a belated New Year VR party for a dozen people, and to use TPCast while I’m at it. Here are my impressions from this event:
- It took an extra 20 minutes to setup the TPCast system, on top of the usual Vive setup. I found that the only way to get it working reliability is to enable the USB drivers manually, one by one (in VirtualHere). At some point it was almost working but then Windows Audio service crashed and I had to reboot and start over. This is probably related to the USB audio driver that VirtualHere adds to the system.
- People had a blast playing untethered. Gorn and Space Pirate Trainer were the crowd favorites. My own game – Orbital Injection – was great for first-timers.
- Tracking was a bit spotty, occasional jitter and pause, but nothing game breaking and nobody got sick (I was worried about that).
- Display was perfect, no artifacts this time
- Every 30 minutes or so, the TPCast wifi module dies and tracking stops completely. The only fix is a hard restart (unplug battery) and that also requires restarting SteamVR and sometimes VirualHere as well. It takes a few minutes of futzing around on the computer and it’s really annoying.
- I would rather have 2 or 3 small batteries than a single giant battery. Sadly, there is only one battery that fits into the TPCast right now, and it’s massive.
Conclusion: Fun for events, when it works and you are willing to put in the extra setup time and troubleshooting. The device is not reliable enough for commercial use or businesses.