It's been a busy week for HTC. Further to last week's news of their plans to bring VR to the masses via a chain of arcades across the US, China and Europe, their previously announced mobile VR platform 'Viveport M' has officially launched for consumers today. Rather than utilising HTC's well-received but eye-wateringly expensive Vive headset, Viewport M is targeted solely at mobile devices, with Android users being the first to enjoy it. This would appear to lend further credibility to HTC's ambitions to become a major player in VR, with the company clearly wasting no time in creating as many distribution channels for the format as possible.
Viveport M aims to provide mobile users with a wealth of VR applications and 360 degree videos. Perhaps the biggest challenge for any new platform is generating desirable content, so in the latest of a series of bold moves, HTC has partnered with China's YoukuVR (think a VR-specific YouTube) to bring thousands of existing videos and apps to the platform. For now, these are unlikely to hold widespread appeal for users outside China due to the heavily localized content, but it's easy to see the clear ambition of HTC's latest venture.
Other than video and games, what kind of experiences do HTC have in mind for the Viveport M? Well, possibly the most notable application available at launch comes from Alibaba, parent company of Youku, who have created a VR shopping application known as Taobao Buy+ which can now be downloaded from the Viveport M's platform through the Taobao application itself. Should VR shopping take off in the future, this could very well be the template for the likes of Amazon to follow, since it allows customers to evaluate the size, colour and other key characteristics of the items in your basket in a first-person 'virtual shopping room' environment. Viveport M also offers integration with another of HTC's recently launched products – the Vivepaper, which allows users to read print content that is layered onto a physical (but blank) booklet being held by the user. Augmented-reality (AR) is used to bring the 'pages' to life, viewable through the VR headset. If the Chinese interface doesn't deter you from investigating further, Viveport M is available to download right now from within Alibaba's own PP Helper application.