HTC Unveils the Vive Focus Standalone HMD – Cans Daydream?

Image Copyright: HTC (Used under Fair Use Rationale)
Image Copyright: HTC (Used under Fair Use Rationale)

Standalone VR headsets are set to play an ever more important role in the VR mass market. Not as expensive or cumbersome as AAA VR setups and way better at VR than clunky mobile-phone hybrids, these are probably the HMDs most people will want in the long run.

The companies that stand behind most major developments in consumer VR are definitely aware of this. We’ve seen products announced such as the Oculus GO and Google Daydream View. Both of which promise (relatively) affordable entries into the world of decent VR experiences.

Just a Daydream

It’s no surprise that HTC, being the hardware maker behind the Vive, got the nod (along with Lenovo) from Google to actually make the Daydream View. However, Google is not welcome in China, which is one of the biggest international markets there is. Clearly seeing a gap, it was intimated some time ago that HTC was going to do a sort of “de-Googled” Daydream View for the Chinese market. With its own software ecosystem and all the tasty Yuan Chinese citizens could throw at it.

HTC has finally announced that HMD, writing on their blog that the Vive Focus would be coming out along an open platform the company is calling Vive Wave. You certainly can’t fault them for brand consistency.

Riding the Wave

The Wave platform at the heart of the Vive Focus is interesting in its own right. The fact that it’s open also shows that HTC is interested in becoming a VR provider in its own right, rather than piggybacking on other platforms such as Daydream or Steam.

The content for Wave comes from the pre-existing Viveport service HTC has been running for some time. Viveport is essentially their answer to the Oculus store and now runs on Wave for an end-to-end HTC solution.

Wave is an SDK that lets developers easily create (or port) VR software to work with the Focus. Presumably if Wave enjoys significant developer uptake, future HTC headsets will also be compatible with it.

Heads Up on the Focus

The Focus itself is an attractive HMD with a two strap design. HTC gleefully show off a model donning the Vive Focus with the same ease one puts on a hat. Under the hood it’s powered by the current mobile performance champ, the Snapdragon 835.

Most importantly, this is a six-degrees-of-freedom HMD. It uses inside-out “world-scale” tracking along the same lines as the Windows Mixed Reality headsets. This is the first 6DoF standalone HMD we’ve seen and that could well be the killer feature of the device.

The Google Question

This of course begs the question on whether we’ll get a Google Daydream version of the Focus outside of China. It’s not entirely clear what the future holds for HTC in this regard, but it would seem logical that if Vive Wave and Focus are big hits in China the company might try to find a way to build on that. HTC has been a rather neutral VR partner to the likes of Valve and Google until now, but perhaps we are seeing the first signs that they want to compete as an independent VR titan themselves.

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