Columbia researchers might have the key to wireless VR

... by using the same tech that's powering 5G cell networks.

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Getty Images/iStockphoto

The millimeter wave frequency has the potential to do a lot. So far it's helping power 5G cell networks, but research from Columbia Engineering could expand that to self-driving cars and virtual reality headsets. It's a little dense, but the key bit is that the team figured out a new nonreciprocal way to transmit the waves, by using "carefully synchronized high-speed transistor switched that route forward and reverse waves differently." The school says it's basically like two trains charging head on on the same track, with them switching tracks at the last possible second.

Columbia writes that this will enable circulators to be built into conventional chips and enable full-duplex or two-way wireless communication. Because so many devices are running in low-energy half-duplex, the frequency spectrum is getting congested. Moving to full-duplex means less congestion, and also higher bandwidth capacity.

So, how does this affect you and me? The school says the radar in autonomous cars "inherently" needs to run in full duplex mode, and be cheap. So these chips would play a part there. The silicon could also be used to create truly wireless VR headsets too, given how fast millimeter waves can transmit the surfeit of data VR requires.

The ultimate goal? Building a bigger array, of course.

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