HTC embraces third parties for new Vive peripherals
With its room-scale VR done right, the tracking system and motion controllers are what set the HTC Vive apart from other VR systems out right now. Considering that focus on peripherals, perhaps it's appropriate that HTC has announced plans to improve support for third party hardware developers to bring new accessories to the Vive system.
Valve and Synapse currently offer a three-day course in the US for developers who want to learn how to build their own tracked objects to work with the Vive hardware. With the aim of pushing VR adoption as wide as possible, HTC plans to offer similar courses in Asia, providing engineers with technical support, software, and development and marketing resources.
The experience of getting off the couch, walking around the room and moving your arms to control the game give the Vive a leg up on its competition for now, but with Oculus Touch due before the end of the year and Playstation VR arriving in October with Move support (clunky and far behind as that is), that advantage might not last for long. The Vive will still have the advantages of more precise room-sized tracking, 360-degree tracking and boundaries to keep you from bumping into things, but more varied hardware still won't hurt to keep it on the map.
Controllers are a decent way to approximate hand movements, but depth-sensing cameras, like future versions of those used in Leap Motion systems could track gestures more naturally. The current version of Leap hasn't worked well in the VR setups we've tried, but more advanced gear could better hit that mark.
Recent, now-deleted tweets from an Intel engineer may have even leaked a depth-sensing "unicorn peripheral" that could do just that.
And what about the feet? Treadmills like the Virtuix Omni (above) and Kat Walk are bulky and uncomfortable at best, but perhaps eventually a more elegant solution to the problem of moving through larger virtual spaces may come out of these courses. Facial recognition, eye-tracking systems and physical props may be other stepping stones on the long and continuous road to deeper immersion in VR. We won't likely see those in consumer-ready form anytime soon, but, who knows, maybe HTC's initiative will nudge things forward a bit faster.
HTC hasn't announced the dates, pricing or other details on its Asian development and training program yet, but says to keep an eye on its website.