Having teased the arrival of a standalone virtual reality headset earlier this year, HTC has now officially announced the Vive Focus, an all-in-one mobile device much like the Oculus Go from Facebook, and free from any connections to PCs or smartphones.
That means all the processing is done on board, and the Vive Focus will be fitted with a Snapdragon 835 CPU, as many of the flagship smartphones of 2017 are. It also offers 6-degrees-of-freedom tracking (6DoF), so can track you as you move around a room, unlike other wire-free headsets such as the Google Daydream View, that can only monitor which direction you're looking in.
The tracking is handled by what's called inside-out tracking – cameras and sensors on the device itself, rather than separate trackers dotted around the room you're in.
Over the last couple of years it's been possible to split VR headsets into those powered by a full computer (like the HTC Vive) and those powered by a phone (like the Samsung Gear VR). The PC-powered headsets offer more advanced games and better visuals, while the mobile-powered models have no trailing wires and are much less expensive.
Now with devices like the HTC Vive Focus and the Oculus Go, manufacturers are putting the smartphone components inside the casing itself, so you can give your phone a break. These headsets will offer a lot of convenience at a lower cost, but still won't be able to match the performance of headsets running from a computer.
The Focus comes with a 3-degrees-of-freedom controller with an integrated touchpad, so you can point and click at objects in VR space. Other details are thin on the ground – we don't have any display specs (other than it will have a high resolution AMOLED screen) or pricing details, and so far HTC has only confirmed the headset will initially be released in China at some point in 2018, followed by more widespread availability later in the year.
HTC says the new headset will run on an open platform it's calling Vive Wave, designed to make it easier for third-party developers to build VR apps and games across multiple devices, and intended to reduce some of the fragmentation that's happening in the VR software market, especially in China.
Developer SDKs are now available through the HTC website, and over 100 developers are already working on content for the Vive Focus, according to HTC. The device will also be able to access the existing Viveport VR app store.
At the same time HTC has cancelled the standalone Daydream-compatible headset, slated for a US launch, that it was working on with Google. It would seem the company is still fine-tuning its VR strategy, but a simpler selection of devices is ultimately going to be better for consumers to get their heads around (or into).
Product page: HTC
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