Virtual Reality

HTC's mobile standalone VR headset starts to come into Focus

HTC's mobile standalone VR hea...
The Focus was announced at an event in China, and is heading to the Chinese market first
The Focus was announced at an event in China, and is heading to the Chinese market first
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The HTC Vive Focus is the company's first untethered VR headset
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The HTC Vive Focus is the company's first untethered VR headset
The Focus was announced at an event in China, and is heading to the Chinese market first
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The Focus was announced at an event in China, and is heading to the Chinese market first
With 6-degrees-of-freedom tracking, the headset will be able to track you around a room, no external sensors required
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With 6-degrees-of-freedom tracking, the headset will be able to track you around a room, no external sensors required
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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.

With 6-degrees-of-freedom tracking, the headset will be able to track you around a room, no external sensors required
With 6-degrees-of-freedom tracking, the headset will be able to track you around a room, no external sensors required

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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1 comment
Bob Huntington
Someone, please make a game for this, similar to Nintendo’s Pilotwings 64! I used to love flying around in the Rocket Belt (jet pack), popping balloons, flying through rings, or just sightseeing the landscape of Little United States island! Can you imagine how awesome it would be, to fly a jet pack in a VR environment? I would look down at my feet, blast off, lean forward, and fly to the first balloon above the castle, pop the balloon, and then fly to the landing area, to land in record breaking time! Just as in Pilotwings 64, I would advance to finding flying rings, utilizing the radar in my heads up display, landing on floating pads, or just flying around the island, taking in the beautifully rendered landscape! Man, it sounds like a lot of fun!!!