November 1, 2017

HTC to release a standalone VR headset

Credit HTC

News from the rumor mill has reached us about HTC planning to release a new standalone VR headset on 14 November.

HTC has been struggling lately, particularly in the smartphone business. This has resulted in HTC having to sell off its Pixel development team to Alphabet (Google’s parent company) for $1.1 billion.

Credit Shutterstock

Credit: Shutterstock

However, HTC’s Virtual Reality headset, the Vive, held the status of king of the VR jungle, commanding a hefty price in return for its hefty, processing power, positional accuracy and other  features. But the problem with all VR headsets is that the developers could never pack enough power into the headset itself. Consequently, these headsets have to be plugged into high spec computers to give players the full monty of user experience

But that in turn meant that the headset was physically tethered, depriving the user of one of the key benefits of a realistic VR gaming experience: freedom of movement. No matter how good your external sensors or internal gyro motion detector, and no matter how good your cable-management system, if you’re tethered to a computer by an electronic ponytail (like that Chinese sage in days of yore), you will notice the feeling of restriction.

Credit shutterstock

Credit shutterstock

For this reason, the holy grail of VR headsets has been the standalone headset. To some extent this has been realized with the Samsung GearVR and the Google Daydream View. But strapping a phone into a headset is like attaching a motor to a horse drawn cart and calling it a car. To the engineer it may be a solution. But to a designer it’s a kludge.

Now HTC appears to be about to take the next step with its impending launch of a proper standalone headset in two weeks time.

Trade Mark Filing

HTC recently filed a trademark registration for “Vive Focus” in the EU and USA as well as another trademark – “Vive M” – in China. Our intelligence does not confirm that either of these trademarks are for the forthcoming device, but this is the focus of our current speculation.

The device is likely to be built around Qualcomm’s latest Snapdragon 835 chip, developed for just such devices. The tracking system for the standalone headset will combine the powerful trinity of gyrometer, accelerometer and magnetometer to provide independent tracking. Thus the new headset is expected to be not only cable-free, but also independent of any external sensors.

Vive headset

Vive headset

The reason that the launch date is expected to be the 14th of November is because that is when the Vive Developer Conference is being held in Beijing.

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