The collaboration of online software giant Valve and smartphone maker HTC has led to the popular HTC Vive. This virtual reality headset was groundbreaking in 2016. Now four years later, you can still buy this HTC Vive, with the HTC VR series being considerably expanded. The business market and hardcore gamers in particular will be impressed by the current line-up that will be available in 2020. On this page we see which products are currently available, and what the future will offer for HTC VR after 2020.
The standard Vive came on the market in 2016, and was the first virtual reality headset to enable room scale tracking thanks to the use of external trackers (Lighthouse). In addition, they were also the first with VR controllers equipped with motion detection. In doing so, they managed to remove some of the crucial shortcomings of the Oculus Rift. The current Pro models are based on the original Vive, with a number of features that will particularly appeal to professionals.
HTC Vive Pro
The Pro line shows that the company focuses mainly on the professional market, in contrast to Oculus, which sets the bar a bit lower. This is reflected, for example, in a more modular system, so you can buy the VR headset separately or as a set. The Pro HMD can be used with a number of other Vive accessories. If you start from scratch, you may want to buy the Pro Starter Kit, which comes with two external tracking boxes and two VR controllers. The Pro Full Kit is aimed at serious gamers, but is certainly also suitable for business applications. The Pro Eye edition is currently the flagship of the HTC Vive series, where the main addition is not outside but in the headset. These VR glasses are able to register eye movement, which has various applications, of which data analysis is the most important. By recording eye movement in addition to head movement, much more data is available to analyze. Think of commercial applications such as market analysis or in the medical sector for research.
The resolution of the current Pro line is 2800 x 1600 pixels, which means 78% more pixels than was available in the old version. The tracking is standard at 5 square meters, but can be extended to no less than 100 square meters. The refresh rate is at 90 Hz with a viewing angle of 110 degrees.
HTC Vive Cosmos
Unlike the external trackers used for the Vive, the Cosmos uses inside-out tracking based on six built-in camera sensors. This offers more freedom of movement, making an installation on location is also easier. The LCD panels together provide 2880 x 1700 pixels for optimal sharpness. The HTC Vive Cosmos is a portable system with built-in sensors, but a link still has to be made with a PC or laptop. So it is not a standalone product like the Focus. The “Crown” strap is equipped with speakers so that headphones are no longer needed. The VR controllers are accurate and special to see. For example, they highlight what offers functional benefits in addition to the appearance.
You can buy HTC Vive Cosmos with or without a wireless adapter. By default, the headset must be connected via cables, this is no longer necessary when using the wireless adapter. The refresh rate with the wireless module is 60Hz.
HTC Vive Focus
These standalone virtual reality glasses seem to be quietly being phased out, the official website no longer even mentions these VR glasses on the main page. Basically this is a competitor of the Oculus Quest, where the Focus is technically slightly better. But with the much higher price and a limited number of titles, this headset has managed to gain little market share. HTC’s alternatives seem more suitable for the business market, for the end consumer the Focus offers too few advantages compared to other products.
What does the rest do?
There are certainly hijackers on the virtual coast, building on the innovations HTC has developed. Firstly Oculus, which delivers two very capable VR headsets with the Rift S and Quest. It is especially the Rift S that, based on extra support and “premium features”, most resembles the strategy of the Vive Pro. The Quest is the direct competitor of the Focus, at the moment Oculus certainly has an edge over HTC in terms of market share. Then there is Valve, who has raised the bar for virtual reality with the Index with accurate finger tracking. This comes at a hefty price, in addition, Valve has not really proven itself as a hardware manufacturer. HTC and Valve are jointly responsible for the original Vive, after a few years these companies have each gone their own way. The Index will undoubtedly provide inspiration to the competition, at the moment buying an HTC Vive seems like a better investment.
At the moment, “Project Proton”, as HTC calls it, is still in the concept phase. Besides some photos and a handful of information, little is known about this Mixed Reality Headset. The main difference with the Vive series is the combination of the environment with digital images, which makes it a direct competitor with the HoloLens from Microsoft and the One from Magic Leap. The design is a bit in between those two Mixed Reality headsets, with a slightly more elegant design than the HoloLens but slightly larger than the Magic Leap glasses.
Two editions are planned; an all-in-one model with all hardware on board to get started, and loose glasses that can be linked to a smartphone. In the standalone version, the CPU is built in a box mounted on the back of the headband, due to this weight distribution, the glasses will not press too much on the face. They are prototypes that will change in terms of design, specifications and application possibilities based on reactions from the community.
HTC has transformed from a popular brand of smartphones into one of the most ambitious virtual reality developers, and will remain a brand to keep an eye on in 2020.