HTC teases a new tethered VR headset for the masses in …

HTC teases a new tethered VR headset for the masses in ...
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HTC showed off a new consumer-friendly headset called the Vive Cosmos.


HTC

HTC wants to make it easier for everyone to get into virtual reality. And it hopes to do so through the Vive Cosmos.

The Vive Cosmos, unveiled Monday at CES 2019, is a new consumer-friendly headset that promises to be easier to set up and more comfortable to use than rival devices. 

The Cosmos is HTC’s latest step to get consumers to give VR a second chance. The Taiwanese company was one of the early advocates of virtual reality, which garnered intense hype and the interest of major players like Facebook’s Oculus, Samsung and Google, only to stumble as consumers shied away from the expensive equipment and early clunky experiences. While there are high-end theatrical-like VR productions, there’s often limited access to them. 

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At CES 2019, VR stands at a crossroads with some predicting that it goes away while others see its potential for a comeback. Clearly, HTC is hoping for the latter.

Daniel O’Brien, general manger of the Vive business, touted the Cosmos’ comfort and ease of setup during CES media day.  With cameras on the exterior, it doesn’t require additional tracking equipment. It has a flip-up design. Cosmos can be powered by the desktop PC or gaming laptop, but HTC teased the prospect of linking it to smartphones.

“Over 85 percent of VR intenders believe ease of setup is a critical piece of decision making for what they want to purchase,” O’Brien said. 

HTC didn’t offer many more details, giving us just a few tidbits of information. We do know, however, that the first version of the Cosmos will need to be be tethered to a computer and require cables like its higher-end Vive siblings — though O’Brien says that HTC is exploring the idea of building a wireless variant.

The Cosmos is expected to launch later this year.

HTC also teased a new user interface called Vive Reality System, which includes a new welcome screen called Origin, designed to take you to new experiences better. Vive Cosmos is the first headset to use the new interface.

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Eye tracking

Last year, HTC made its Vive virtual reality system easier to look at. This year, it will be looking back at you.

The company on Monday also unveiled a new version of its Vive Pro VR headset. It’s called the Vive Pro Eye and it incorporates — what else? — eye-tracking capability. The idea is that, with a hard gaze, you’ll be able to navigate or choose a selection in a menu, removing the need for physical controllers and opening up the accessibility options.

The Vive Pro Eye is virtually unchanged from last year’s Vive Pro model, aside from the eye tracking and a camera on the inside. But the feature won’t trickle back down to the older headset.

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The Vive Pro Eye incorporates eye-tracking.


HTC

HTC showed off a demonstration where Major League Baseball would use the Vive Pro Eye for its Home Run Derby simulation, which removed the need for a Vive controller and instead let the player swing a bat with a Vive peripheral attachment.

The Vive Pro Eye will hit the market in April, according to a spokesman.

Netflix of VR

HTC also announced VivePort Infinity, an upgrade to its subscription service that includes access to any of the more than 500 titles in the store. That’s an upgrade from the previous subscription model that let you try out five games a month.

The company touts a low monthly fee, although it didn’t specify what the fee would be.

The service will launch on April 5. You can access VivePort Infinity through other devices like Oculus Rift, as well as Vive Focus.

A price will come closer to VivePort’s launch.

HTC also partnered with Mozilla to create a browser optimized for the VR experience. The company is working with Amazon Web Services’ Sumerian browser-based authoring tool to create new VR experiences to the browser.

CES has been a big show for HTC. Last year, the company showed off the Vive Pro headset, which refined the design of the original Vive to add integrated headphones and a sharper display. It launched in April for $799.

Last week, HTC teased the new product in a tweet in an effort to generate excitement.

That’s been a tougher job for HTC, which to used to boast a cult following for its uniquely designed smartphones that took advantage of the latest technologies, including the first Android-powered smartphone in the G1. But the company saw its fortunes reverse with the rise of massive phone players like Samsung and Huawei. While HTC still puts out phones, it has struggled to get consumers to notice them.

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CES 2019: See all of CNET’s coverage of the year’s biggest tech show.

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