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'VR LAN party' software launches for free on Thursday

Engadget Engadget 26/04/2016 Richard Lawler
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Darshan Shankar has been working on bringing computer screens into a VR environment for two years, and on Thursday his BigScreen software will launch on Steam for the HTC Vive and Oculus Rift. Beta testers have been using it for a couple of months, but once it launches anyone with those VR headsets (and a powerful PC) will have access for free. Users can bring anything that displays on their normal Windows desktop to screens in virtual reality, with up to four people sharing one environment at a time. It uses positional audio to let users talk to each other within VR, but shared audio from the desktops is a feature that will arrive later, along with customizable avatars and Vive controller support.

In a Reddit thread announcing the release, Shankar explains that its bandwidth and hardware requirements depend on the resolution users select, and how many people they're sharing an environment with. Streams are peer-to-peer and encrypted, and there's no latency for a viewer looking at their own screen. To stream a monitor in 1080p to three other people could require a 5 - 10Mb connection, for example. In the future, he envisions charging for upgrades on things like avatars and environments while the core product remains free, like Skype.Steam, r/Oculus

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