Untethered Virtual Reality with the Xbox One Wireless reciever for Windows 10
VR Finally comes to the living room
Our prayers were answered with the arrival of the Xbox One controller wireless receiver for Windows 10 that allows you to cut all the cords and enjoy a full VR experience in the comfort of your living room sofa.
Using Google Cardboard and my favourite smartphone based HMD I am now able to stream all of my PC games in SBS 3D…
Check out our first look at our first very rough video showing the full untethered PC 3D VR setup.
Xbox One Controller Wireless Receiver for Windows 10
Probably winning the most longest and biggest mouth fall of a name for a product… this finally lets you use your Xbox Controller on your PC. YES FINALLY!!
I suspect this is more Microsoft letting its existing Xbox gamers play with their PCs rather than PC gamers get some proper support.. but hey it’s here and it’s great…
But my Playstation has been wireless for like, forever!!
Ok, let get this out of the way for the sake of the review and any fanboi-ism, yes, the PS has had wireless controllers, but these operate over bluetooth, which is a laggy useless mess… and trying to get hold of a decent reliable bluetooth dongle on a PC is just another headache… so enter the W10 Receiver (see what I did there), with all its wireless unlaggy goodness…
So what’s it like
Well to be fair it does a feel a bit like cheap plastic and I swear all the money went on the box it comes in, but it works, straight out the box… Your first reaction however is likely, oh crap I’m gonna need some rechargeable batteries, I can’t be naffed to charge them so I’ll go back to using a 3m usb cable across the living room… (so you can stop reading and my review ends here)… However if you can spare the batteries, I recommend the Duracell 2600mah batteries which last ages (always check the mah rating of the battery the el cheapo ones are only 800mah despite being branded ultra long long life never ending), you pretty much plug the receiver into your PC switch the controller one and that’s all it is! It really is lag free, I tried looking really hard for it and never seems to drop out…
And for those of you who want to learn about a full Virtual Reality Experience Read on!…
Streaming from your PC
Now mobile phone games are great and all that, but let’s face it you want to play some proper games like Assassin’s Creed Syndicate, Batman Arkham Knight, or The Witcher 3. A lot of HMD’s (Head Mounted Display, i.e. the thing currently stuck to your face!) on the market allude to doing this but don’t actually tell you how.
If you’re running something like an Oculus rift then you just plug in an HDMI cable, a really really long one if you want to use it on your sofa, but we’re rolling untethered here, so things are quite a bit more complex… Your first challenge is how to get the video from your PC to your VR set? You do this using some PC streaming software, which comes in two parts, the server software you leave running on your PC and an Android App to get the video stream from the PC.
There are numerous Apps that claim to stream your PC, Moonlight (using Nvidia Stream), Trinus VR, and finally the only one that actually works well enough for actual usage… KinoConsole… infact it is so good you can even play GTA V on a smartwatch, so your snazzy Octo-Core beast won’t notice much…
To stream your software your devices must be on the same wireless network.. you can use WiFi just fine, no need for ethernet, but make sure your wireless network is AC as wireless N just doesn’t has what it takes.
KinoConsole will need a small amount of setup, which can be launched from its desktop Icon, as we’re planning on using a physical controller connected to the PC , under the Advanced tab disable the Xbox controller emulation.. (this is used to route the controller via the phone, if you want to use a bluetooth controller connected to it) and set your audio preference.
Launching your first game
Under quick launch you can scan for more games and add any shortcuts off of your desktop, launch the App on your phone and you will see the games mirrored and you can launch them directly on your phone.
Soooo but I thought it would be in 3D!!
So by now you’re amazed that you can play *insert awesome game name* on your phone and loving it, you might even be tempted to break out your bluetooth controller and have a quick few games for example playing the very excellent Witcher 3 on your smartphone , but we’re here for Virtual Reality damn it! so this is when things start to get interesting.. The first thing you need to is make your game in 3D, KinoConsole does have a setting to double the screen for fake 3D so each eye will have its own copy of the screen, however this doesn’t fill up my screen correctly and we’re after the real thing. To enable your favourite games you need to render them in the 3D format side-by-side mode (SBS), which separates the screens a little to add a 3D “pop” effect, most games at the moment do not support any sort of SBS, (ie rendering the screen twice, one for each eyeball!) and you need a piece of third party software called TriDef it’s not cheap but it’s very much worth the money, word of warning however it relies on each game coming out having a profile created for it by either the staff or volunteers so game support takes time and the results vary, at the end of the day the best people to make a title truly 3D enabled are the original developers, who likely are only going to bother with supporting the Oculus Rift instead of every HMD under the sun.
Now I’m seeing double
Once you’ve got TriDef installed and played with a few times you’re going to need to add it KinoConole so you can stream it, the best way to do this, is within TriDef 3D Ignition, right click your game and “Create Shortcut”, this will then launch your game via TriDef making it stream in 3D… I store all my VR shortcuts in a folder so they’re easy to get to, KinoConsole support recommend creating a .bat file to launch your shortcut and adding that to KinoConsole. Or if you find yourself just looking at your PC desktop with not much going on, then just manually launch the game from within Ignition.. (We’re not trying to play games out of the home over 4G so we don’t need everything to happen perfectly with just one click.. If you want to play games somewhere else over 4G LTE you are venturing in another whole world of pain… hint, you will need an SDSL internet connection with crazy upload.)
But it doesn’t look quite right…
Well that’s because when you’re streaming two pictures where each eye is perfectly rectangular, this doesn’t take into account the lense distortion… traditionally VR glasses had a separate screen for each eye however this has poor FOV (field of view) and therefore very bad immersion in your field of vision, but the latest generation of HMD VR sets rely on one giant screen and the two lenses to distort the picture into seemingly two. To achieve this, you need to have “Barrel Distortion” which is why all those Oculus rift demos look so funny.. this converts your rectangular shape video into a barrel shaped screen so that the lenses can distort the picture in such a way you get a single 3D screen when you look at the screen… Unfortunately as of writing this there isn’t a way to get KinoConsole to apply Barrel Distortion to the game stream.. this was because KinoConsole started off life before VR kicked off and has slowly been upgraded to support it.
Picking the right HMD or VR headset
There are a glut of HMD’s (head mounted display) out there, seems like there are loads popping up over night.. each with their own unique features but own take on how best to show VR. However they all generally fob the responsibility of creating 3D support to the game developers, who lets face it are not going to bother with every obscure headset out there… saves your money and don’t get sucked in by their marketing and stung into shelling out for a headset that has no software support out of the box… wait for the Oculus Rift (which will have proper support) and in the meantime get a half decent cheap and cheerful Mobile VR headset (which is why you’re here today).
For mobile VR (i.e shoving your phone where your face is, so you can see it better), you don’t want something that will cost the earth and you don’t want to go so cheap that it’s uncomfortable and you’ll never use it for more than 5 agonising minutes, so do yourself a favour forget all those el cheapo Chinese headsets. You can see the difference in what your money gets you here.. I recommend the I AM Cardboard XG VR it’s a very comfortable HMD, it does need some setup in the straps to distribute the weight correctly but it’s worth it. I AM Cardboard were features by Google themselves at Google i/o this year… they have taken the concept of Google Cardboard and really evolved it into a quality final product. This is why you need to get a Mobile VR that supports the Google Cardboard SDK to ensure that the VR software on Android will be configured in the right way to line up with your lenses.
How to melt your eyeballs with 4k!
Proverbially speaking of course.. (or maybe not let us know), mobile VR just took a crazy leap forward in the launch of the world’s first smartphone with a 4K screen by Sony and their Xperia S5 Premium edition. Yup you can upgrade that $100 (or $10 if you’re still rocking the original cardboard glasses) HMD to 4K resolution just by swapping in the Premium S5. We can only dream about how clear the picture must look with ultra small pixels, however don’t get excited about VR in 4K VR, yes your display supports it, but your PC can’t. There is good reason that the minimum spec for the Oculus Rift mandates a GTX 970.. soon as you have to render your game twice your frame rate takes a nose dive. For example I’m running a GTX760 (as I don’t believe in future proofing things, ie you have a depreciating asset until video game makers figure out how to use all of it) which will run The Witcher 3 at 30fps at 1080p, dual rendering it for SBS 3D drops it down to 20fps, and thats for 1080p… But wait thats still only half the amount of resolution of a SINGLE 4K stream, yup running 4K SBS 3D is 8 times the resolution of your single 1080p screen… So put the 4K idea way way far behind you!…