HTC has once again used CES to announce a couple of updates to its Vive VR system. The headliners are two new headsets, including the Vive Pro Eye, which adds eye-tracking to last year's high-end hardware, and the Vive Cosmos, which turns the tracking inside out. On top of that, HTC has outlined software updates to its content subscription service and something called the "Vive Reality System."
First unveiled at CES last year, the Vive Pro marked a pretty big leap from the first-generation headset, with built-in headphones and a higher display resolution of 1,440 x 1,600 per eye at 615 ppi. Although HTC hasn't yet given the exact specs of the Vive Pro Eye, it seems to be the same with the addition of eye-tracking.
Tracking where the user is looking should make for easier navigation through menus without needing any other controllers – although you'll still need them to play the actual games, of course. Eye-tracking tech also means that the system only has to fully render the spot where the user is looking, meaning it can softly blur the rest of the field of view. That saves on the computing resources required and can apparently help make things look more natural.
The Vive Pro Eye (pictured below) is due to launch in the second quarter of 2019.
We know even less about the Vive Cosmos. For this headset, HTC is focusing on making it easy to set up and use, and to that end it doesn't require any sensors placed around the room. Instead, there are extra sensors in the headset that let it detect the controllers and any obstacles around the user, much like the Vive Focus.
But the Focus is a standalone device, meaning it doesn't need to be hooked up to a PC or smartphone, while the Cosmos still needs to be hooked up to … something. HTC has been strangely vague about this so far, only saying that it "has the capability to be powered by more than a traditional gaming PC." It sounds like it still can be connected to a PC if you want, while the video suggests it could also run off a phone.
HTC says that developer kits for the Vive Cosmos will be available in the next few months, while more details on consumer availability and price – and presumably, what it actually is – will be announced later on.
On the software side of things, HTC is adding a new tier for its Viveport content subscription service. Viveport Infinity, which launches on April 5, lets members download and play as many of the games and experiences in the 500-plus-strong Viveport library as they like. It sounds like a pretty good way to get more people playing shorter titles or indie productions that they might not have given a go otherwise. Whether it's good value will of course come down to pricing, which hasn't been announced yet.
And finally, there's the Vive Reality System. The name is basically all we know about that, but it sounds like a new UI for Vive devices that's designed to "feel less like launching apps and instead like stepping between worlds." As part of that system, HTC has teamed up with Mozilla to create Firefox Reality, a new internet browser built specifically for VR.
The Vive Reality System will launch first on the Cosmos, before spreading to other Vive devices later on.
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