WiGig®everywhere at CES 2017

CES was a key event for WiGig, here are our top 5 highlights:

CES was probably our busiest ever this year, with WiGig featuring prominently at the show and systems running it making it into the highlight pieces of many of the major consumer tech news sites.

While time was limited I did manage to get a quick walk round and check out some of the best systems in development and on display. Here are, for me, the shows WiGig highlights:

1) TPCast WiGig peripheral for the HTC Vive

It’s not surprising to see VR in the top spot, this was one of the hottest technologies of 2016 and will continue to be for 2017 too.

As I wrote in the run up to CES, one of the biggest problems with VR is the wires. You can’t have an immersive experience that tethers you to one place, wraps you in HDMI cables then trips you up if you turn too much and risks dragging the PC off the desk if you move too far from it.

Solon Q has tried to solve this by moving the processing hardware to the headset, but this adds weight and the natural answer is a PC-based system wirelessly streaming two channels of better than HD (in some cases 4K) video to the headset’s two screens. And this needs WiGig, both for latency and for reducing the need for compression and the artefacts this causes.

And we’re not the only ones to agree. Not only did we have conversations with many VR system developers in the months running up to CES, we also got to see the TPCast, KwikVR and Rivvr on display.

Rivvr and KwikVR have developed for both the Oculus Rift and Vive, while the TPCast is a peripheral developed by a startup in the Vive X accelerator programme for the Vive only.

Despite only being available in China (it will be going worldwide for USD 249 soon) the PR machine was in top gear with some great reviews already out. The Verge said: “It really could change the game completely for room-scale VR”. And Digital Trends: “We could whip our rifle around, move around the Vive room at any speed, and the TPCast seemed to keep up.”

2) An Intel collaboration for an official wireless Vive

Again, VR. But this one went a little bit under the radar and was only mentioned teasingly in HTC’s press conference; indeed I’ve seen it in few places outside of Upload VR. According to one of HTC’s top Vive executives at CES, Daniel O’Brien, “Intel has been working with the Taiwanese company to develop a wireless solution for the Vive.”

Will we see an off the shelf Vive without wires this year? It would make sense, as the Verge said in its review of the TPCast: “I never forget I’m using the normal Vive, because its cable is heavy and requires constant attention to avoid getting tangled up in,” and while peripherals is a temporary solution, they are still costly and the ability to get it designed in will be a serious reason to choose the Vive over the Oculus Rift.

3) Qualcomm’s latest WiGig chip, the Snapdragon 835

The numbers for Qualcomm’s latest SoC are impressive. A 10nm process; 8 cores in 2 clusters; 3 billion transistors; a GPU that is 25 per cent faster than that of its predecessor, the Snapdragon 820; 25 per cent more efficient too, and of course, WiGig.

Qualcomm’s latest chip made headlines for many reasons. The fact that Qualcomm beat Intel to 10nm is of course a big coup. But for me it’s the potential that this chip represents.

At the show Qualcomm’s Keith Kressin, said the Snapdragon 820 and 821 WiGig enabled SoC had more than 200 design wins – notably including the Google Pixel phone. It has already been reported by Fudzilla that Snapdragon 835 will power a lot of AR and VR headsets, and that we can expect to see some notebooks running it in H2. More interestingly, TechTimes has reported that the Samsung Galaxy S8 will be based on this.

4) Lenovo’s Thinkpad X1 Yoga

Listed as the best laptop in ArsTechnica’s review (and many other publications for that matter) of the show, the X1 Yoga.

This is a truly top end machine, or as ArsTechnica put it: “a machine that sets a new standard for connectivity and capabilities, showcasing some of the latest technology—and doing so without compromises.” With 360 degree hinge, 2K screen and WiGig, this is a great option for entertainment, allowing services like push VoD to transfer movies from the home server to it as you’re running out the door.

Making this more interesting is that Microsoft has realised this is a sign of the future with Windows about to get WiGig support too. In December Microsoft held its annual WinHEC conference in Shanghai and video has emerged that shows the Windows Creators Update will introduce support for the 802.11ad Wi-Fi protocol for Windows 10. This update is scheduled for Spring 2017.

5) Dell’s Latitude 7285, which cuts all the cables

As Forbes put it “Dell Excels At CES Again With New And Futuristic Business And Consumer Offerings”. And one of the highlights for Forbes (among others) was Dell’s WiGig-enabled Latitude 7285 business laptop, which takes a very different approach to Lenovo’s, instead using it to cut all cables from the machine.

This is (as far as I’m aware) the first truly wireless machine to hit the market, combining not just Wi-Fi and WiGig but WiTricity wireless charging too. As Forbes put it: “the user can just place their Latitude 7285 on the charging mat and it automatically starts charging and wirelessly connects to the wireless display. This is the future of computing.”