DisplayLink Showed Me How Good Multiplayer VR Can Be

LAS VEGAS — My opponent and I stood, slightly crouched with rackets at the ready, in a 360-degree battle arena. I couldn't actually see her, though. I was wearing an HTC Vive headset powered by DisplayLink's wireless technology.

Credit: Andrew E. Freedman/Tom's Guide

(Image credit: Andrew E. Freedman/Tom's Guide)

DisplayLink, the company behind the new wireless adapter for the HTC Vive Pro, is at the CES 2018 technology show in Las Vegas to show off its wireless technology, and this time the company is doing it with two people together. I had the chance to play Racket NX, a futuristic racquetball game in which players blast the ball at each other to earn points by bouncing it off the circular play space.

But in reality, I was at DisplayLink's booth, and the company took an extra step: to record in a greenscreen space to show bystanders what we looked like and felt like in the game.

The wireless technology is based on the company's 8000-series chips, a more powerful version of which you would find in its enterprise docks. When we got our exclusive first look at the technology earlier this year, it hadn't yet reached this stage.

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While I had a blast playing, the multiplayer demonstration was actually aimed at the people who might usually use the company's enterprise docks. DisplayLink's Andy Davis told me that enterprise customers are extremely interested in being able to collaborate in VR, and that the greenscreen effect can let others see what's going on.

In my demo, the game was running off two HP Omen desktops with Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080 GPUs networked together. At the moment, Davis told me, one computer might struggle with this, unless it has the extreme processing power some enterprises use.

I didn't sense any lag. Not a single frame. During my booth tour, Davis showed me two monitors running a game, both using GTX 1080 GPUs but one with DisplayLink's graphics technology and one without. I took a photo of the two time clocks, and there wasn't any lag. At worst, Davis told me, the lag with DisplayLink would be a nearly unnoticeable millisecond or two.

Playing in multiplayer definitely added a competitive component I hadn't yet felt in virtual reality, and one that I thought was years away. But it's ready now. You just need the technology to become widely available.