November 17, 2017

The HTC Vive standalone arrives… sort of…

Vive Focus

We covered the impending release of the HTV Vive Focus a couple of weeks ago. But now it has been displayed at the Vive Developers Conference in Beijing and we have a bit more detail.

First of all, it appears that HTC delivered a number of pre-production units to developers at the time of our earlier report. That was apparently to prepare the demos.

Secondly, the company presented the Vive Focus with the announcement that it would go on sale in China in 2018. There was no indication at the time when it would be launched in Europe or North America. However, since then, one of the developer partners (Pillow’s Willow VR Studios) - whose videogame Spark of Light was displayed at the event - confirmed in a press release that the Focus would indeed launch in China first but that would be followed by a global release “later in the year.”

HTC have also announced that they would not be introducing a Google Daydream device. As Patrick Seybold, Vice President, Communications & Social Media at Vive, stated:

“Our effort has been on bringing some other devices, including the one we announced to markets like China. We still have a great relationship with Google, but will not be bringing a standalone device to western markets on Daydream. We’re looking closely at our hardware roadmap, and will share when there is more to come for Western users next year.”

This may be due to the fact that the real profits are in the software and by delivering hardware for Google’s platform they would merely be enriching others rather than themselves.

So what do we know about the Vive Focus?

  • It is a truly standalone device and does not require a PC, either tethered or wireless.
  • It does not require lighthouses or lasers to track its position.
  • It has six degrees of freedom (3 position, 3 orientation).
  • It does not require an inserted smartphone. Instead it has a high-resolution AMOLED display.
  • It is powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 processor.
  • It comes with a bluetooth controller that has three degrees of freedom.
  • It is lighter than the HTC Vive
  • It has a rotational headstrap and new cushion
  • It has dual cameras in front.
  • It has built-in, stereo speakers.
  • In case you prefer your own headphones, it has a headphone jack
  • Also at the bottom are buttons to set the volume and a dial for varying the interpupillary distance
  • At the top it has a micro-USB socket for charging the internal battery
  • The tracking is probably based on a combination of gyrometer, magnetometer and accelerometer.

The bluetooth controller has:

  • a thumb trackpad (clickable)
  • an app-specific button
  • a home button (which re-centers the view if held down for three seconds
  • a volume rocker control on the right side
  • a trigger underneath, at the tip

The tracking works extremely well on both low-end and high-end apps, both as to latency and positional accuracy. The controller’s 3-DoF tracking also works well, although if it is brought too close to the headset, it does not function correctly.

One problem that early testing has implied is the possibility of overheating. There is an air vent in the front, but it seems that this is not enough to prevent such overheating. When that does occur, a warning flashes up in the display. A warning is a good feature. But making sure that it doesn’t happen too often would be better.

We will keep you informed when we have more information - and hopefully a worldwide release date.

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