HTC's VIVE ecosystem has just received several new premium experiences and tools targeted at businesses hoping to leverage VR in order to increase engagement. The new suite consists of an SDK for VIVE Wave, a relatively new platform aimed at interoperability, along with the standalone VIVE Focus, and finally, a new hardware partner to develop for in the form of Shadow Creator, whose inaugural hardware will also be able to run VIVE Wave content. Finally, HTC has created a VR meeting space for enterprise use that it has dubbed VIVE Sync. The set of new tools all speak to the standalone VR market, reducing the hardware cost that developers and businesses looking to use VR will incur in putting out their creations. Naturally, this also represents a big step for consumer VR in the VIVE ecosystem.
Background: The biggest kicker here is that everything centers around the Viveport distribution platform, which carried the main focus of PC-based, high-end VR experiences until now. VIVE Wave and VIVE Focus are targeted to standalone hardware that uses mobile processors and other low-cost equipment, meaning that HTC is apparently trying to incite a premium VR experience movement in the mobile-centric and standalone space. The partnership with Shadow Creator is perhaps the best example of this new trend; the brand's very first headset, and thereby one of the first compatible with the new VIVE Wave ecosystem, sports the same Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 processor that powered many flagship smartphones in 2017. The headset is paired with in-house controllers that offer 6 degrees of freedom. The new device will be out on November 11. As for VIVE Wave, there are currently 5 supporting standalone headsets, with a grand total of 15 hardware partners currently slated. The ecosystem is meant to allow interoperability between most mobile-focused and standalone headsets by defining a unified standard for content, with the Viveport storefront at the center of it all. Finally, VIVE Focus is a new, business-focused standalone headset that pairs a Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 processor with a 3K display, offering graphical fidelity that HTC claims is on-par with PC-based headsets. The headset offers a 110-degree field of view and up to three hours of wire-free usage on a single charge. Additionally, it can be synced with the VIVE Enterprise Advantage suite to allow businesses to use it with enterprise-focused VR services from HTC or build their own experiences on the platform for employees and customers alike.
Impact: announcement and launch serves a dual purpose. First, HTC is looking to push standalone VR using mobile equipment as a premium and lower-cost alternative to high-end, PC-based VR. The company seems to be dead-set on creating mobile-compatible experiences that are comparable to what's found on PC, all while freeing users from wires. While the company's own new headset and many of its partners' hardware uses yesteryear's Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 processor, they shouldn't be written off on the basis of a lack of raw power; the Snapdragon 835 is, from a raw computing power standpoint, superior to the NVIDIA Tegra X1 chipset found in the Nintendo Switch and NVIDIA Shield TV, and almost matches it in terms of GPU power. The enterprise move, on the other hand, is something that HTC has already been pushing for. This grand expansion of its VR enterprise efforts could kick off an enterprise-centric movement in the standalone VR space, knocking down cost barriers and potentially popularizing standalone VR in the enterprise segment by showing that innovative, premium experiences that genuinely help enterprise customers are possible on lower-cost hardware.