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It’s been the industry’s bane since this VR wave showed up in 2016. It’s extremely rare for operators to agree on anything. But if I ask 100 VR operators for their number one problem, invariably their answer will be “headset cables”.
Cables have been a problem for our industry since Duck Hunt in 1984. We’ve tried hardening, thickening, and even coating them in steel. My first production Laser Storm laser tag system, opened in 1992 at Don and Susan Perkins’ Roll-On America in Massachusetts. Within a week, all the cables failed.
VR cables are the worst of the bunch. VR headsets use HDMI cables containing 21 hair thin wires to deliver audio and video. They’re designed to be in the walls behind your television, connecting it to the set-top box. They were not intended to be pulled, twisted, and swung on by unruly children. Yet that’s what the VR industry gave us.
Manufacturers have tried to increase the life of VR cables through clever workarounds. From simple heat shrink wraps to strain reliefs to complex motorized pully systems, the truth is that something needs to be fixed.
VRsenal took the most hardcore approach to cable reliability. Their first system used a motorized retraction system with a clutch to protect the headset from being pulled on or used as a swing. It helped, but it introduced lots of complex moving parts, which themselves had reliability issues. On their popular Beat Saber game, they tried using wireless data transmission.
They replaced the HDMI cable with a simple power cable. While the cable lasted, the wireless system generated too much heat and weight.
Over the last year, VRsenal worked with HTC VIVE on a new solution. Using the Focus 3 headset, VRsenal designed a new power and data distribution system. They created custom circuit boards inside the PC and more inside the armor that ruggedizes the headset.
This system lets them deliver power and data all over a 4-wire cable. It’s the same cable they used on their Beat Saber controllers, which over millions of plays, lasted, on average, two years.
Beat Saber puts so much strain on the controllers that when the game became popular, engineers at Valve had to change the Lighthouse tracking system to keep up with the speed people swung the controllers. No headset will ever see as much stress. On the release notes for the software fix, engineers wrote that they had to “Increase limits of what we thought was humanly possible for controller motion”.
VRsenal has dubbed their new solution “Monolith”. It comes standard on their latest products; their new dance rhythm game Synth Riders and their hit shooter, Zombieland Arcade. They’ve converted their Beat Saber and Star Wars: Lightsaber Dojo games at over 200 Dave and Buster’s and Main Event locations.
They offer conversion kit upgrades for LAI’s popular Virtual Rabbids: The Big Ride and King Kong of Skull Island from Raw Thrills.
The company is working on conversion kits for systems like Hologate, Unis Moto VR, and Triotech’s Storm.
Beyond the increased reliability, the Focus 3 is the most comfortable, lightest weight, and highest resolution headset on the market. It’s easy to adjust to fit almost any player. And VRsenal’s software solution eliminates the lighthouse interference that plagues many arcade games. Operators will be free to put their VR arcade games where they want without worrying about them interfering with each other.
Game techs, location owners, and players around the world can rejoice. For more information, go to www.twoyearcable.com. But don’t wait. If this solution is as popular as I expect, supply constraints will cause backlogs.
“Operators will be free to put their VR arcade games where they want without worrying about them interfering with each other. “