Comment - What we want to see from HTC Vive 1

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The enterprise market and professional users need a headset from HTC Vive that combines the best of untethered and tethered virtual reality. It an ideal world, it would also be cost effective

HTC Vive is doing a top job of teasing the release of a new virtual reality headset, which may or not be a competitor to Oculus Quest 2, tethered or untethered, PC compatible, and much more.

What we do know is that HTC Vive released an image on social media accompanied by the tagline: “It’s your move.” The image shows a snippet of what could be a headset made of matte black plastic sporting the hardware developer’s logo.

A subsequent image released on the same day showed a little more (or less, depending on how you look at it) of the logo.

Since then, we’ve been treated to a much better look at the headset, this time with the tagline: “Express yourself.” This image captures more of the material the headset is made from, plus a hinge system.

This image prompted (although social media sleuths that routinely investigate virtual reality technology had already shared these) others to share photos of an apparent HTC Vive prototype sporting an accessory that tracks lip movements and/or facial expressions (more on this later).

That’s mostly what we’ve had from official sources. This latest image did also include a date that you had to zoom in to see and I initially thought was a social media’s prankster’s doing. Thankfully, I was wrong! We should be getting some actual details and hopefully images of the new headset from HTC Vive tomorrow.

Those social media sleuths I mentioned earlier managed to track down an interview with Alvin Wang Graylin, who leads HTC Vive in China, in which he discusses a new headset planned for 2021.

In the interview shown on YouTube channel TeliportMe, Graylin said HTC Vive would release its “next-generation standalone” this year, while also declining to call it a competitor to Oculus Quest 2, Facebook’s dominant untethered virtual reality headset.

TechRadar reached out to HTC for comment on the story and a spokesperson told the technology publication that HTC Vive “will continue to build a holistic VR ecosystem of new products, services and solutions that meets both consumers’ and business’ needs and drive adoption of immersive technologies”.

That’s pretty much what anyone has said publicly about the new HTC Vive headset and I encourage you to read the many interesting takes published over the past few days.

There have also been thousands of comments on social media, including many focused on what HTC Vive needs to do better after the disappointing Vive Cosmos range.

I’d like to take this opportunity to outline what the enterprise market needs from a new HTC Vive headset, given what’s already available. This goes to Graylin’s comment about Oculus Quest 2, but also the needs of enterprises and professional users as I understand them. Note: these are in no particular order, by no means comprehensive and purely guesses. Plus, it’s fun!.

ONE: Untethered, but PC compatible+. Professional users and the enterprise market need the best of both worlds—the freedom of Oculus Quest 2 and the power of the PC. HTC Vive’s headset needs to be pick-up-and-play to cover training use cases and capable of plugging into a gaming laptop to run demanding engineering software. Plus, PC compatibility needs to be simple and go above and beyond access to a single platform. Users need access to SteamVR and Windows Mixed Reality, at the very least.

TWO: Reliable tracking and no base stations. If inside-out tracking isn’t included as standard, HTC Vive can expect all but the most patient enterprises to stay away. Oculus Quest is by no means the standard in virtual reality, but it does get the best press. And its effective inside-out tracking is what they expect, at a minimum.

THREE: Flip-up design. Executed well, it’s ideal for professional users and helps make integration of virtual reality into workflows that little bit more seamless. Let’s make it standard.

FOUR: Lip/face tracking. Is this possible? If it’s real, HTC Vive needs to include it. A common issue with virtual reality for communication and collaboration is the inability of hardware to accurately recreate facial expressions. With lip or face tracking, your avatar’s mouth and face would reflect your own as you speak to clients and colleagues. This would elevate virtual reality from better-than-video-conferencing to must-have for remote working in a globalised world. Throw in hand tracking for better gesticulation in virtual environments and HTC Vive might just have a winner on its hands.

FIVE: Price. VRWorldTech serves an enterprise audience with generally bigger budgets, but that’s not true of small businesses, freelancers and the emerging professional user base made up of teachers, designers, healthcare workers and others. The potential of virtual reality is that almost anyone can use and benefit from this immersive technology. HTC Vive must bear that in mind when pricing its new headset. There is an argument for selling cheap and stacking high. Just look at Oculus Quest 2.

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Images: HTC Vive