Virtual Reality can be an incredible, unique experience – but most of them have a painfully high barrier to entry. Most VR setups require an expensive PC and a clumsy headset that is weighted down by cables and adapters. There are a few cheap, simple options like the Oculus Go, but they do not have the power to do anything really interesting.
But between this expensive, cumbersome option and the cheap, less urgent alternative, a new middle ground for VR devices emerges. With Oculus Quest by Oculus Quest Facebook's Oculus has already unveiled its high-end standalone VR platform. Now, HTC brings its competitor to the US market: .
Well, at least it brings it to US corporate customers. Technically, the Vive Focus launched the Oculus Quest ̵
HTC informed us that a consumer version might be possible in the future, but no specific plans at the moment – and that's a pity, because the Vive Focus is possibly the most comfortable VR headset I've ever used ,
It almost sounds like a small, dismissive factor – but usability and comfort are incredibly important to the VR experience. The original, PC-based HTC Vive is a ballet of positioning sensors that manages cable harness cables, plugs in multiple connectors, synchronizes controllers, and sets up computer software and is combated with a range of headbands that fits the VR headset precisely.
The HTC Vive Focus? It is hardly more difficult than putting on a baseball cap. The Focus headgear is by far the easiest I've ever used. It is controlled almost exclusively by a single adjustable dial on the back, which determines the tightness of the camera. There's also a belt over your head that you can adjust, but most of the time I did not have to touch it. This is the first VR headset I ever wore that I could easily wear and use.
HTC may therefore hope that the product will reach corporate customers. A small, lightweight and easy-to-use headset, it's much easier to fit into an office or training workflow than a traditional VR setup. The company plans to use the headset for collaboration, teleconferencing, design, and training. When we launch the headset in San Francisco, we only have examples.
Like most VR demos, these fake entrepreneur experiences range from a plethora of possibilities to incredibly frustrating. A demo put me in the role of a Volkswagen employee sorting warehouse inventory with a training robot on the screen asking me to check my ID, scan parts, and put them in the right shipping container for other workers to use can use later. This was a well-thought-out, immersive program that immediately introduced me to the principles of the job and really helped sell the potential of VR as a training tool.
However, this potential will only be realized if the training is actually enhanced by the virtual reality experience. Another demo I tried on saw that I just clicked on a locker to put on a hard hat before going into a construction zone to see a pre-recorded character lecture. When you're standing and seeing a talk about tool safety, I do not necessarily need a VR headset.
The Vive Focus delivers a solid, self-contained VR experience that the Oculus Quest can bring to market – but the two headsets are not exactly alike. Although both headsets have Snapdragon 835 mobile processors and a resolution of 2,880 x 1,600, HTC's headgear is delivered with just one motion controller, unlike the two 6DOF controllers supplied with the Oculus kit. It also costs more – the Vive Focus is sold to developers for $ 599, while the Oculus Quest costs $ 399 when it starts in the spring of 2019.
HTC is trying to address at least one of these issues – in addition to the company's push for Enterprise, a 6DOF Vive Focus developer kit has been announced. This is basically an addition that gives the headset six additional sensors and a pair of motion controls. It worked well in the Volkswagen demo, but it takes some work: my movements were precise, but a bit nervous.
At the end of the day, it's exciting to see how far VR has come in recent years – from complicated setups with PCs and cables to simple, comfortable devices that do almost everything themselves.
We hope the technology will soon be used for more than just worker education.