HTC have revealed an updated version of the HTC Vive will be released, with an upgrade version being available as early as the first quarter of 2018.
People interested in what VR has to offer in 2018 have flocked to the winter CES show, and already it appears the biggest news has already come from the current incumbents HTC, who revealed a very impressive looking upgrade to their Vive headset.
The Headline Updates
In terms of headline updates, the Vive Pro has a combined resolution of 2880 by 1600 pixels which HTC claim is 78% more than the current Vive model. High quality audio support, previously requiring the Deluxe Audio Strap, two front-facing cameras and improved ergonomics are also included, including an ability to adjust the field of view and length of the headset. This means glasses users have a chance of using the Vive Pro more comfortably.
Other, less visible updates include an improved microphone with better noise cancelling and an improved centre of gravity, to avoid the complaints often made about early HMDs that they weigh heavily down on the bridge of the nose whilst in use.
Vive Pro’s Updated Base Stations, Viveport and Vive Video
The Vive Pro was of course not the only revelation made by HTC about their flagship VR device. Along with the upgrade to existing Vive owners that will be made available in the first quarter of 2018, an upgraded release with updated controllers (although it hasn’t been revealed whether these will be the touted Vive Knuckles) and an updated version of their Lighthouse Base Stations, which with four stations allow a range of 10 metres by 10 metres, although in practice this is unlikely to be used outside of arcade installations, businesses and development.
As well as this, an updated version of HTC’s storefront Viveport has been unveiled, which is the biggest upgrade to the system since its launch. Viveport has changed design, no longer being a menu or catalogue shown in 2D but using fully immersive previews of VR content, and an opportunity to interact with VR content before buying or subscribing to Viveport.
Similarly on the software front, HTC Creative Labs unveiled an update to native VR video platform Vive Video, which adds integration with Vimeo, providing a “curated selection” of Vimeo video. No word on official Youtube integration, but with the tangled relationship between HTC and Alphabet, it’s anyone’s guess whether it’s bound to happen or an impossibility.
The Race for Wireless Tethered VR
The biggest news by far outside of the headset itself has to be the unveiling of the Vive Wireless adaptor. An upgrade for either the Vive or Vive Pro, the wireless adaptor uses the 60Ghz “WiGig” band in conjunction with Intel, which HTC claim is interference-free, and will offer lower latency and therefore better performance.
Wireless tethered VR has been something of a holy grail for VR users, with one of the bigger issues with using the current generation of VR technology being the morass of wires connected to you when you use it. While this isn’t the only potential solution, this is a big step forward, and appears to be one of the last relics of Intel’s cancelled Project Alloy.
All that being said, the potential release date of the third quarter of this year means it won’t be the only wireless VR solution in town. Windows’ Mixed Reality headset ecosystem is already available as a wireless platform without a need for external sensors, and whilst the Oculus Go is Facebook’s primary focus, there will likely be a competing wireless upgrade for the Rift on its way as well.
What does it mean for VR?
The big question of course is what this means for VR, and the answer is fairly positive. There is a feeling last year of an upward wave, as increasingly daring cuts did have a positive effect of bringing people into VR, who had been turned away by the prohibitive price point. There’s proof there is a taste for VR, but many outside of the enthusiast market have chosen to wait for a device that either fixes many of the fundamental issues with VR (Wired up, latency, motion sickness, lack of content) or wait for the cost to be low enough that the aforementioned issues are manageable.
The original Vive is likely to lower in price with the wider release of an upgrade that makes it almost entirely redundant. This is positive, as it means that the Vive has a chance of competing price wise with the Oculus Rift, which had a phenomenal holiday season by virtue of price cut after price cut.
Winter CES is almost always an exciting time for technology, and this year has started off very strongly for VR.