CES 2018 has come and gone, and with it, a pace has been set for what we can expect to see in VR in the next six months or so. If you weren’t following the day-to-day news, here’s a look at the top stories and what they mean going forward.

HTC Vive Pro

Photo by Road to VR

Perhaps the biggest reveal at CES 2018 was HTC’s Vive Pro. The new VR headset is essentially a complete redesign, notably with an improved screen (upgraded to 2,880 × 1,600 from 2,160 × 1,200), but a number of other enhancements as well. Check out our hands-on for a breakdown of everything the headset has to offer.

Set to be offered initially as a headset-only upgrade to existing Vive users in Q1, a complete package offering new controllers and base stations compatible with SteamVR Tracking 2.0 will be launched later in the year. The Vive Pro and original Vive are planned to be sold alongside one another. As a side note, HTC confirmed to us that the Vive Pro won’t ship with Valve’s ‘Knuckles’ controllers, a bummer for those hoping to finally get their hands on the anticipated controllers which were first revealed back in mid-2017.

HTC also announced an official, optional Vive Wireless Adapter which is planned for availability in Q3 with support for both the Vive Pro and the original Vive. See our hands-on here.

Pricing for the Vive Pro and Vive Wireless Adapter hasn’t yet been announced.

SEE ALSO
Here's What Could Be in HTC's 'Vive 1.5'

What It Means

The lack of pricing information leaves a big question mark over the impact that the Vive Pro and Vive Wireless Adapter will have in 2018.

The Vive Pro is a clear upgrade over the original Vive, with greater comfort and better visuals. Undoubtedly it stands to put pressure on Oculus who have suggested on a number of occasions that they don’t plan to release a successor to the Rift in 2018. While the Rift debuted back in 2016 with many of the conveniences that now come default with the Vive Pro (notably the rigid head strap with built-in audio), the Pro now has an unignorable lead in visual clarity thanks to its higher resolution screen.

My best guess is that the complete Vive Pro system (headset, base stations, and controllers) will debut at the $800 price point that the Vive had originally launched with back in 2016. If that’s the case, the headset may be in a difference price class entirely compared to the $400 Rift, which means the Rift would still be primarily competing against the Vive rather than the Vive Pro.

But when it comes to commercial and enterprise usage, the Vive Pro (assuming an $800 price point) now appears the obvious choice, especially thanks to SteamVR Tracking 2.0 which can track up to 33 × 33 feet volumes with four base stations. In these sectors, HTC is already believed to have a strong lead over Oculus, and the Vive Pro could cement that throughout 2018.

The big question is whether or not Oculus will introduce their own ‘Rift 1.5’ with an upgraded resolution to match the Vive Pro. With the original Rift and Vive believed to the using the same Samsung-made OLED displays, it seems likely that the new displays being used in the Vive Pro (also believed to be from Samsung) could be installed into the Rift without a major redesign, but, without a better understanding of the internals of the Vive Pro, it’s hard to say.

SEE ALSO
Pimax "8K" Surpasses Oculus Rift as Top VR Headset Kickstarter Project, $2.45M Raised So Far

Lenovo Mirage Solo

Image courtesy Lenovo

At CES 2018, Lenovo debuted the first of the Google-inspired standalone VR headsets based on the Daydream ecosystem, the Mirage Solo. As a standalone headset, the Mirage Solo has everything built inside for a VR experience (display, battery, processing, etc), which means it doesn’t rely on a snap-in smartphone or external computer/console.

It’s also the first Daydream headset to debut with inside-out positional tracking (6DOF), though the controller retains only 3DOF (rotational tracking).

The Mirage Solo is set to hit shelves in Q2, though Lenovo is being cagey about the price. The company says it’ll be priced “under $400;” and while we’d usually assume they just mean $399, they told us “We’re working on driving down the price so that it’s accessible to more people, and we believe we can reach a more mainstream price point than the prices we shared.”

What It Means

From a performance standpoint, the Mirage Solo is definitely an upgrade over pretty much every mobile VR headset currently on the market. The addition of 6DOF tracking makes for a much better experience which feels much closer to high-end VR headset. There’s also a lot of advantages that come with a standalone design, like improved battery life (which isn’t shared with your smartphone), potential for much better thermal design (resulting in greater performance with less overheating), and more.

However, with the controller having only 3DOF (rotation only) tracking, input is going to be a bit awkward and limiting compared to what would be possible with a fully 6DOF standalone like Oculus’ Santa Cruz prototype which we saw late last year. It’s also unclear how many developers will develop games and experience which take full advantage of 6DOF tracking when the vast majority of mobile headsets currently in existence are only 3DOF. The 6DOF/3DOF split could create undesirable capability fragmentation, at least until the bulk of mobile VR headsets have 6DOF (which they hopefully will sooner rather than later).

SEE ALSO
Oculus Go + Open Questions Around Facebook, Privacy, Free Speech, & Virtual Governance

Another major question is the price of the Mirage Solo and what it will mean for traction. Mobile VR is all about ‘causal’ and ‘convenient’, but $400 (or even $350) is a significant purchase for a dedicated gaming device. When serious gamers can pick up a 1TB Xbox One or PS4 for $280, the question must be asked—exactly what kind of casual gamer will be dropping $400 on a VR headset? And if they aren’t casual, they probably already own a PS4 or modern gaming PC, which means for about the same price they could easily nab a Rift or PSVR.

Oculus, on the other hand, plans to debut their standalone ‘Go’ headset soon with a much more ‘casual’ $200 price point. And while means the exclusion of 6DOF tracking, it may make more sense for the casual VR niche than a $400 headset like the Mirage Solo which has more features but still fundamentally provides a mobile VR experience.

Continued on Page 2: Xiaomi-branded Oculus Go & Pimax 8K »

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  • Jean-Sebastien Perron

    Is it me or VR is coasting gently in mid 1st gear. No innovations are coming in the next 2 years. Where is larger fov and working 8k? Where are the interesting games (other than wave shooter and puzzles)?

    • Flamerate1

      I think most of the exciting technologies have been revealed, so now everybody is working toward optimization.

      The only I’m waiting for is actually good games.

      • Laurence Nairne

        I think we can all agree that we’re still sitting on the edge of our seats for Smell-o-vision.

    • There is a TON of stuff going on but it takes time to come to market. The more interest and investment going into VR means game developers will start to take notice too.

      Inside out positional tracking, eye tracking, wireless, body suits, Operating systems integrating VR into the root OS, more and more games coming out, all the new headsets announced in the last 12 months with more than that displayed at CES (I believe about 8 or so other unknowns had VR headsets there). NVidia, AMD and Google working on reducing the power demands for their VR (Foveated rendering, multi-shaders, hardware lens transforms etc)
      Then we have Apple who went and bought SMI, a leader in eye tracking and one that was working with HTC/Steam originally. Oculus have bought Eye Tribe and Samsung bought Eyefluence.

    • Doctor Bambi

      I think we were very much spoiled with the technological jumps that were made between Rift DK1 and Vive. Most of that was low handing fruit where obvious improvements could be made. We can’t push the current tech much further without some new major technology breakthroughs which is why companies like HTC and Oculus are setting expectations for later down the road. My bet is Oculus is waiting on a fully baked eye tracking solution before planting the CV2 flag.

      Sure there are a significant number of shovelware wave shooters and puzzle games out there cashing in on the VR hype, but I just cannot disagree more in terms of the diversity of what’s available. I have one wave shooter in my library and more games than I can get to. What do you want to play? There are fantastic shooters like Onward, and Pavlov. Narrative games like Lone Echo and The Invisible Hours, and Wilson’s Heart. Third person action games like Chronos and Edge of Nowhere. Social games like Rec Room, Star Trek Bridge Crew, and VRChat. Esports games like Echo Arena, Sparc, and The Unspoken. There’s Fallout 4 VR, L.A. Noire The VR Case Files, and The Solus Project for role playing. Interesting movement based games like Climbey, To the Top, The Climb, Eagle Flight, and Sprint Vector. Music games like Soundboxing and Audioshield. Well crafted puzzle games like Form, Call of the Starseed, Conductor and The Talos Principle VR. Creation apps like Tilt Brush and Medium. There’s an MMO called Orbus. Vanishing Realms for a Zelda-esque experience. Let’s not forget all the driving and flying simulators like Project Cars, Dirt Rally, and Elite Dangerous. I’d say one major genre we haven’t seem much movement in is RTS. Hopefully Brass Tactics sets the stage for that.

      • Jose Ferrer

        Nice compilation but IMO you didn´t include the most awesome combat flight simulator: IL-2 Series Battle of Stalingrad.
        Since March-2017, 95% of my VR time go to that simulator.

        Flight and space simulators are the types of games where higher resolutions (and also a bit wider FOV) are very much needed.

        • Doctor Bambi

          Nice, I’ll have to check that out. Yeah, this list is in no way comprehensive. There are many more great titles worth mentioning, these are just the ones that came to mind at the time.

          We need a site that compiles games from Steam and Oculus Home with the best and most reviews. So when someone makes the argument that there are no good games in VR, we can point them to that.

        • Icebeat

          IL-2 doesn’t work with Samsung Odyssey, so -1 points for it.

    • MosBen

      First, the two biggest players released their first consumer products less than 2 years ago. Before their releases, the general consensus was that the expectation would be a lifecycle akin to cell phones, which means 2-3 years. Admittedly, I’m a bit underwhelmed by the Vive Pro, but they haven’t definitively said that it represents a second generation of the Vive, rather than a 1.5 upgrade. We haven’t heard anything from Oculus regarding a 2.0 version of the Rift, but I would expect that we could start hearing about it later this year. But again, we’re still within the expected lifespan of the first generation of HMDs. If we go another full year and neither Oculus or Valve are talking next steps, that would be concerning.

      That said, I’m a Pimax skeptic, but they’re trying for at least some of the things that you’re looking for. It remains to be seen if they can pull it off, but there is innovation happening. It’s also worth considering that computer hardware when the Rift and Vive were released was, for the first time I would argue, at a point where consumer level hardware could run reasonably high quality VR, but it was really expensive and required being tethered to a bulky PC. My guess is that both of them would like to get to a place where HMDs were mostly independent of PC, with all of the computing power contained either in the HMD or on a belt unit. Mobile hardware has certainly improved since then, but we’re not at the equivalent of a GTX 980 yet. I wouldn’t be surprised if the first couple generations of VR get slow walked a bit in order to allow mobile tech to catch up to that point.

      • Get Schwifty!

        Good points.

        I would say this – “not at the equivalent of a GTX 980 yet.” – it’s not even close on the mobile hardware yet, not even close. Truth is wireless to a PC is going to be the way it will go for probably many years, in fact likely for decades. What’s in your phone is impressive for what it is, but to say it holds a candle to the processing CPU and GPU in your PC is a stretch to say the least. While mobile will likely get to 980m+ levels, the fact is there is only so much “shrinking down” possible and wirelessly transmitting to a headset (or still even using the hated cable) tethered to a PC is just the way it’s going to be. If you wanted 8K per eye resolution you need a serious graphics workhorse, no mobile device is going to come close.

        However close mobile comes, a stationary system will exceed it by leaps and bounds offering a vastly more rich experience.

        • MosBen

          I did a little bit of googling, but couldn’t find a direct comparison between the latest Snapdragon chips and things like consoles or PC graphics cards. I suppose that I could try to find raw numbers, but…eh. Do you have any more concrete idea of how they compare? In my head current mobile hardware is somewhere in the neighborhood of PS3/Xbox 360, if maybe a bit less powerful, so it seems like we should reach GTX 980 levels in a few years, but not many. But then again, I’m absolutely not an expert in such things.

          That said, mobile hardware will always be behind full-sized PC hardware. It’s just physics. But I think that VR enthusiasts tend to focus a bit too much on the raw quality that PC VR can create, when that’s not what I think is holding most people back. Most non-enthusiasts don’t want to have to worry about whether their PC has the right specs. They just want to buy something that works out of the box, is comfortable to use, etc. I picked the 980 because I think that that level of power was key to pushing the baseline experience of quality modern VR. I want to live in a world where the screen door effect is gone, FOV matches that of human eyesight, etc., but what I want more, and what I think is most important to making VR accessible for non-enthusiasts, is to have a headset and 6DOF controllers that someone can just pop on and use anywhere.

          And my suspicion is that Oculus and HTC would like that to be the default too, rather than relying on their customers to own powerful, and expensive, PCs, even though those PCs are significantly more powerful than mobile hardware.

    • victor

      Interesting games? how about warthunder, DCS, lone echo, PCARS, Elite Dangerous etc….(as far as complex sit-down games anyways).

  • JMB

    ‘It’s also the first Daydream headset to debut with inside-out positional tracking (6DOF), though the controller retains 6DOF.’ I’m pretty sure this should be 3DOF for the controller.

    That aside I think Pimax’s official statement particularly regarding the tracking issues that roadtoVR referred to would have warranted a mention. Now obvioulsy it’s just a statement and cannot be verified at this point but apparently Pimax tried to increase the panels’ brightness by both adding more backlight LEDs as well as increasing those LEDs’ current which in turn ended up affecting the tracking. Not the ideal way to approach a tradeshow such as CES for sure but if true, they are left with optimizing their geometric distortion algorithm including IPD adjustment capability to adjust for the new, all-in-one hybrid lenses (also shown for the first time at CES) and figure out a comfortable headstrap design akin to PSVR before going into production. That’s quite a task but absolutely doable!

    • As to the strap, if the HMD is compatible with some Vive accessories, maybe the vive basic headstrap could be used if Pimax can configure their connection points to be compatible or have bridging connectors that extend out and into the vive strap. It is £20 for consumers on the Vive website and looks like it has better support than the rather simple backpack strap shown on the v5.

      https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/d7744f39b20da8067bbe6423c2397222a2f60b587b1c0e1a2dd0fcc76ef96d59.png

      • Laurence Nairne

        That being said, the standard Vive strap is not designed to hold the weight (or shape) of the PIMAX, so would likely be much less effective at distributing weight (not to say that it is good at doing it for the Vive in the first place).

        With the cost of purchase, they need to invest in some serious design to get a head mount that offsets that lump on the front and spreads the cost of holding it on your head for extended sessions of play. Else you’d just end up with neck-ache after 30mins.

    • benz145

      @disqus_v3mwKWXDYa:disqus you’re right, it should have been written as 3DOF! Fixed, thanks.

    • Jackie

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    • daveinpublic

      Ya, they should have mentioned Pimax’s response to their article. Doesn’t mean we’ll trust everything they say, but at least mention that they think the tracking RoadtoVR noticed is an easy fix.

  • Vive Pro price rumour: https://medium.com/silicon-valley-global-news/htc-vive-pro-price-rumor-9e311ee6c5a5

    $349 Q1 Headset Only & $799 in Q4 2018 with the Lighthouse 2.0 Trackers. There is also a visual comparison of the Vive Pro with the Vive Pre + TPCAST + Deluxe Audio Strap

    • Guygasm

      No way. The HMD including DAS features is supposed to be $349 but two newly designed wands and two Lighthouse 2.0 beacons (both of which should be cost optimized vs. gen 1) are supposed to cost $450? That doesn’t add up in any universe.

      • Have you seen what HTC charge for gen 1 wands and lighthouses at the moment? $259.98 for two wands and $269.98 for 2 x lighthouses, thats $529.96 just for half the kit.

        Compare that to 2 x Touch controllers for $99

        • Guygasm

          Aftermarket pricing has zero bearing on new product pricing. Oculus actually charges $59 for 1X Sensor and $138 for two Touch controllers purchased separately = $197, yet they sell for $99 bundled.

          • So what do you think the headset on its own will cost?

          • Guygasm

            $450. $700 for Q4 bundle. Lower Q4 $500 Vive 1 bundle due to LH 2.0 cost savings.

  • Rasmus Johnsen

    I’ve seen a lot of comments about Rift vs. Vive vs. Vive Pro vs. Pimax 8K and i know there have not been release any official info of it yet, but i’m speculating that LG is holding back their UltraGear. Here is why. They have no need to show off and throw out some VR solution untill it is ready
    We have all been yelling on Wireless VR and we have all been yelling at better controllers like Rift style or better. So i think that instead of going with the viper style controllers like Vive they are waiting on the knuckles to be officially released and then bundle the final version of the HMD with those controllers. On top of this i think they are looking into integrating TPCast as a part of their headset instead of add-on and last i believe that they will go with the 2880*1600 resolution as well.

    The Pimax 8K is unrealistic with current GPU hardware for consumers, not saying that you can’t do it, but when the creator behind the Pimax 8K says that it would need 1080Ti to run and even might need it SLI this is just not realistic for most consumers that they are trying to target

    To be honest, If LG would dump their headset with the knuckles controllers, the upgraded HMD to 2880*1600 and built in audio like the vive pro and the current pull out and flip up system they have developed and then throw in some TPCast Plus tech with Steam Tracking 2.0 at a price point around ~$700 it would kill any and all competition in the high end VR Tier, both business and consumer oriented sales would point towards this setup. This would not require some $5-7000 hardware setup to run at 90Hz, the optimization compared to what’s on the market today and announced at CES 2018 would be great enough that i think most consumers who is looking into high end VR would be saying “Vive Pro what?” and sorry to say it but calling the Rift High end is simply incorrect after CES 2018, hell even the original Vive isn’t high end HMD any more, they are both mid tier where as the true low tier would be inside out tracking HMDs, except the Samsung Odyssey due to the resolution that would pull it into mid tier. But tracking precision and range is way too low compared to Steam Tracking to call them anything else than low tier, but great options to get into PC VR

    • Nyco30

      Damn man. Stop coffee. Get laid. And add dots to separate your sentences. It’s really heard to understand your line of thought.

      • Rogue Transfer

        Referring to getting laid is immature. You’d have been better off just sticking with your latter points instead.

        • Nyco30

          And going full-throttle on pure wishful thinking based on personal hunches about future LG moves with an unrealistic business model ($700 for a a full VR kit including knuckles & TPCast like system on top, lmao), how do you think this sounds like?

          Disregarding Pimax 8K just because of the current GPU gen can’t stand it, in other words disregarding innovation that would force the market to step up, how do you think this sounds like?

          To me, all this sounds immature. So I guess we’re even.

    • Rogue Transfer

      You’re getting mixed up between the Pimax 8K X and Pimax 8K. Different input resolutions.

      The Pimax 8K only needs a 1070, due to having an onboard upscaler chip. Most of their demos have been using a 1070 too – as seen on their Kickstarter page for games Vanguard V, Dead Effect 2 & DCS: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/pimax8kvr/pimax-the-worlds-first-8k-vr-headset/description

  • Lucas Rizzotto

    Great analysis!

  • Peter Hansen

    I think it is neither Oculus’ nor Valve’s decision not to distribute their content system (Oculus Home, Steam) in China. China wants a controllable VR ecosystem. Standalone headsets are perfect for that (hard to “side-load” any apps or content like porn, e.g.), but understandably the interest of VR providers to manufacture/sell hardware to that market that isn’t tied to their world of content is rather low.

  • Zerofool

    > “With the original Rift and Vive believed to the using the same Samsung-made OLED displays…”

    Believed? iFixit did teardowns of both devices more than 18 months ago (you guys only reported about the Rift teardown, probably have missed the Vive one) and it is clear that they use different displays (slightly different sizes). Well, the initial revisions, at least…

  • daveinpublic

    These announcement don’t seem to address VR’s main problems.

    Vive Pro:
    It’s good to have more choice but this won’t get many more people into this medium. Firstly, it’s geared towards gamers with the hardware design. Secondly, the price will be higher, since it’s called ‘pro’, keeping it out of reach of most people except the same crowd that already dropped a lot of money. Third, the Samsung Odyssey has the exact same resolution, FOV, access to Steam and uses OLED, but costs less and doesn’t need base stations or software to download. I think it’s a very well made headset, and beyond anything I thought we’d have by now, but does it fix the larger issues?

    Lenovo Mirage Solo:
    Seems priced too high for the average consumer. And 3DOF controllers isn’t immersive enough for a hardcore gamer. 6DOF controllers allows experiences that you can only get in Rift/Vive right now. For the same price a gamer can get a Windows headset with 6DOF everything, if they have a PC. One bonus, is it’s basically the only consumer focused VR product with 6DOF, and it has the Google Store which know will be supported through the years. But, it needs to be priced lower.

    Right now, many companies are making VR better by making them prettier and more powerful, but Windows and Oculus are the only ones innovating by making things simpler and less costly.

    • mirak

      HTC updated it’s leading headset with the newest and best screen tech available.
      That’s a pretty good sign.
      Better than saying that’s not worth refreshing.

      I think Oculus is exploring the microdisplay way and probably doesn’t want to depend on Samsung to much.

    • Rogue Transfer

      It does help address two of VR’s main problems – the first generation headsets aren’t sufficiently high enough resolution or low enough SDE for more general use.

      Currently, we have headsets that have a narrow use scope where they aren’t sufficiently capable for some common tasks for many users(e.g. desktop replacement, movie watching, racing/flying sims).

      Having higher-end headsets will help drive the second hand market too with lower prices as people upgrade.

  • brubble

    Poke me awake next year please.

  • mirak

    Another question about the Vive Pro is if Q1 buyers will then later be able to purchase a bundle of Ligthouse 2 stations and controllers, at least to able to sell the full Vive 1.