HTC Reveals Vive Standalone VR Headset for China

Adi Robertson, The Verge:

HTC is partnering with Qualcomm for a self-contained Vive virtual reality headset exclusive to the Chinese market. The headset, called the Vive Standalone, is billed as a “premium” device and will run apps from HTC’s Viveport platform. It’s powered by a Snapdragon 835 chip and is based on Qualcomm’s all-in-one reference design, which includes inside-out positional tracking that would put it in the company of high-end tethered headsets.

Great news for the VR industry, and not terribly surprising. My big question is if and when we’ll see a Vive Standalone for the US market.

HTC is already on record as an OEM partner for Google’s Daydream standalone headsets, which will support Google’s platform, not Viveport. Google services aren’t always reliable in China, however, which is likely at least part of why HTC is announcing Vive Standalone, and not a Daydream rig, for that market.

It would make all sorts of strategic and (presumably) financial sense for HTC to also launch Vive Standalone in the states to compete with the standalone headsets rumored to be coming from Facebook and Samsung in the next 6-12 months. But who knows what may be happening behind the scenes with Google and HTC to shape both companies’ launch strategies.

HTC and Jaguar Team Up for VR-Enhanced Car Launch

HTC:

Taking place over 12 VR pods, the experience featured a series of interactive technology stories, to dive deeper into the mechanics of the E-PACE. With Vive’s tracked controllers, guests could rotate the model to view from all angles and lift away sections of the car to reveal the interior. Whole sections of the car could be interacted with, such as opening the boot to get a 3D view of the capacity inside, or removing the engine for a close up look.

The VR experience culminated in placing the participant between two ramps in the heart of a thrilling car stunt. The 15.3 metre-long jump complete with a 270-degree corkscrew-like ‘barrel roll’ stunt was then spectacularly recreated live at the ExCel, setting an official GUINNESS WORLD RECORDS™ title, for the Furthest Barrel roll in a Production Vehicle.

A few years ago I moderated a panel on developing AR/VR experiences for business applications using Salesforce data.* One of the panelists demoed a mixed reality experience he’d developed for car dealers: A car shopper sits behind the wheel of a new car (either in person at the dealership, or in a digital car via VR). The shopper selects available vehicle options – trim, options, interior color, etc – and the digital car changes in real-time to reflect the selections. When the shopper glances at the driver’s side window, a virtual window sticker updates the car’s price to reflect the selected options.

It was genius; the panel audience was wowed by the combination of whiz-bang technology and obvious business use case.

Whatever happens (or not) in the mainstream consumer space, VR will continue to grow in the enterprise. Awesomely sticky experiences in controlled environments like press launches and retail showrooms will provide more bang for the buck in VR than via any other medium, including physical reality, over the next few years.

*Side note: One of the other panelists was founder of an AR company called Augment. Looks like Salesforce Ventures invested $3M in them a year later. Maybe I should host more panels? 

Oculus Slashes Rift Bundle Price to $399. That’s a 50% Drop in Four Months.

Oculus just announced a sale on their Rift + Touch bundle. For a limited time (six weeks, starting today), you can pick up the bundle for $399 USD. That’s a $200 savings.

The new pricing also represents a 50% savings, or $400, from the same bundle’s $798 price only four months ago.

Note that the new sale pricing only applies to the bundle. Purchased separately, the Oculus Touch controllers are still $99. This is all being marketing as part of the company’s Summer of Rift promotion, which features sale prices on a wide selection of games and other content, as well.

Without getting too far into reading tea leaves, all available data points to two possible reasons for the price cut:

1. Oculus hasn’t sold very many Rifts. VR headsets generally haven’t sold well, with the possible exception of Samsung’s Gear VR. I say possible because many of the units Samsung has moved have been freebies thrown in with the purchase of a new Galaxy smartphone.

2. The impending launch of standalone VR headsets from HTC, Lenovo, and Samsung spells significantly increased competition for mindshare and early install base capture. Oculus is doing what they can to bring new users into their ecosystem now, before these new platforms hit the market later this year.

VR Cord Cutters Take Baby Step Towards Mainstream

Tuan Nguyen, reviewing a prototype of HTC and Intel’s wireless Vive headset for PCGamer:

Although my game time with the wireless Vive headset was short, it was exactly what I wanted from the initial release of the Vive and Rift headset. Having wires everywhere is a huge pain and injury risk and complicates the overall experience.

Companies in the VR space know that to truly take VR mainstream, wide consumer adoption needs to take place. Two things need to happen before that occurs: great content and true ease of use. Right now we have neither, but we’re  slowly getting there.

If Google’s forthcoming Daydream standalone headsets can nail the industrial design, hardware performance, and – perhaps most importantly – computational sleight-of-hand promised by the company’s new Seurat graphics technology, they could mark an important milestone on the road to consumer VR adoption.

Nobody wants to wear a helmet that’s tethered to a PC by a bunch of wires.