HTC’s standalone, untethered VR headset the Vive Focus, will come to western markets later this year, HTC announced today. The company also announced that developers can register for Dev-Kit units from today.
With the VR market still in an early state of flux, companies producing virtual reality hardware are experimenting with different types of immersive consumer products with different capabilities, form factors and price points in an effort to find ways into the mainstream by addressing shortcomings of fully fledged PC powered headsets.
For HTC this resulted in the curious announcement of the Vive Focus, a headset powered by Qualcomms’s 835 mobile chipset and onboard inside-out tracking that could work without a computer or external tracking hardware, a standalone “pick up and play” solution. We went hands on with the device at MWC 2018 last month, and were impressed by the stability and responsiveness of the headset’s tracking, if somewhat less enamoured by the motion of the included motion controller. Despite this promising reveal, HTC were being very cautious about any commitment to any hardware release outside of the Vive Focus’ initial China-only launch territory, merely stating that the headset may reach international markets should the launch go well.
On the subject of a release outside of China, HTC’s Vive China President, Alvin Wang Graylin, said in January that “It’s something that we’re looking at very seriously, and once we have more clear market data in terms of how things are doing with the Chinese release, I don’t see any reason why we would not release it in the rest of the world,” Graylin said, prompted by a question regarding the headset’s chance of launching outside of China. “[…] it’s definitely our intent that if we have a good product then it should be available to as many users as possible.”
Now, HTC has officially revealed that the HTC Vive Focus will launch internationally at some point in 2018, with a press release from the company stating a broad window of “later this year”. Additionally though, HTC will also opened up a pre-order registration portal for Vive Focus developer kits today so that creators can get their hands on the hardware to begin building content ahead of the consumer launch. At the time of writing however, it was not stated when those dev-kits would reach developers either.
Similarly unknown is the HTC Vive Focus’ intended International launch price. The Vive Focus is currently on sale in two flavours in China at roughly $679 USD for the “Electric Blue” model and $631 for “Almond White” including local taxes and controller. Adjusting to remove China’s 17% sales tax, that’s an entry price starting at around $523 USD – not cheap, but perhaps not extortionate considering the onboard equipment.
Whether consumers will pay for hardware that, although wireless, will still deliver VR with visuals akin to top-end mobile phone powered experiences remains to be seen. Either way, it’s a welcome addition to a fledgling VR market, currently only represented by the forthcoming Google Daydream powered Lenovo Mirage Solo headset. Like the Vive Focus, the Mirage Solo is powered by a Qualcomm 835 chipset and sports inside-out tracking. The Vive Focus trumps its competitors per-eye resolution, with two 1,600 × 1,440 OLED display (one per lens) versus the Mirage Solo’s single LCD panel producing 1,280 × 1,440 per lens.