HTC is launching a new virtual reality (VR) headset called the HTC Link, promising to narrow the gap between the high-end VR market and the entry-level segment powered by smartphones. While the HTC Link works in conjunction with the HTC U11 flagship released by the company earlier this month, the headset features its own display setup and unlike other smartphone-powered VR gadgets, it offers six degrees of freedom tracking (6DOF). The HTC Link is currently planned to launch only in Japan and no details regarding its pricing and availability in other regions have been released so far.
The current VR market is largely split between two major segments, specifically the high-end market consisting of products like the HTC Vive and Oculus Rift, and the entry-level segment which largely revolves around less-costly headsets such as the Samsung Gear VR. The HTC Link is a unique VR headset in that it attempts to combine some of the best features of both worlds into a single package. Having said that, the HTC Link is labeled as a wireless VR headset that relies on the HTC U11's processing power to render content. However, the HTC Link also differentiates itself from low-cost VR headsets by adopting its own display setup consisting of two 3.6-inch displays, each with a resolution of 1080 by 1200 pixels and a refresh rate of 90 Hz, delivering a 110-degree viewing angle. Furthermore, while smartphone-powered VR headsets generally offer three degrees of freedom on the Z, X, and Y axis, the HTC Link pushes itself into a different category by doubling that figure. In practice, this allows the headset to read the user's head motion while stationary, as well as in an area of four square meters, providing a sense of room scale similar to the HTC Vive. However the HTC Link achieves a sense of room scale without using Valve's Lighthouse room-tracking technology, and instead, it relies on a series of lights located on the headset and the controllers, which are then tracked by an external sensor similar to Sony's PlayStation VR.
Other specifications of the gadget worth mentioning include a dedicated 2,800mAh battery, USB Type-C connector, and a 3.5mm headphone jack. The headset comes bundled with a camera (external sensor), two 6DOF controllers, two straps, LED markers for the head-mounted display, and a pair of earphones. HTC's official press release states that the company intends to launch the HTC Link in the country through local carriers and as an HTC U11 accessory, though it remains to be seen how much will the device end up costing.