Announced just last week, Vive Focus Plus is HTC’s next iteration of their standalone VR headset that adds a pretty big missing puzzle piece, namely a replacement for its predecessor’s single 3DOF controller (rotation only) for the new 6DOF controllers. But that’s not exactly all there is to Vive Focus Plus.

We’ve seen Vive Focus using 6DOF controllers a few times before the new version’s public debut at MWC 2019—it was only last month at CES that the company’s hardware partner Chirp Microsystems (now acquired by TDK) was still giving demos of the 6DOF controller dev kit in action, which included two controllers and an external snap-on faceplate studded with the little pinhole-size emitters and receivers for its ultrasonic controller tracking.

Vive 6DOF controller dev kit, Photo by Road to VR

A few thing have changed about Vive Focus Plus from its predecessor—the new headset now boasts better comfort, a clearer image delivered by new lenses, and of course the 6DOF controllers—although not much else has changed from Focus to Focus Plus outside of that.

It still contains the same Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 SoC, the same dual 1,600 × 1,440 OLED displays, and the same optical headset tracking as before.

Vive Focus Plus, Photo by Road to VR

I’ll save you some time if you’ve been following along already by not rehashing the entire product; if not, check out our in-depth hands-on with the original Vive Focus from last year’s MWC to learn more about what fundamentally makes both of the headsets tick.

Now let’s dive into what’s new.

6DOF Controllers

Predictably the controllers handle nearly the same as Chirp’s, and we’ve written good and plenty about them over the past few months too. A quick refresher: it’s a pretty acceptable controller tracking implementation that offers ‘good enough’ latency and a wide enough tracking volume to keep the controllers spatially positioned even when they’re directly outside of the user’s field of view, meaning you won’t actually ever notice when your controllers go outside of their operational range (putting your hands behind your back, or behind your head).

Photo by Road to VR

The headset and controllers send and receive ultrasonic sound in a frequency that it’s well out of the range of what even a dog can hear, so there’s seems to be little that can throw them off in terms of interference. I found the controller tracking to work as advertised even on the noisy expo floor.

That said, the final production controller isn’t the best design out there, but certainly not the worst. This mostly comes down to button layout and its ambidextrous design—both left and right controllers are interchangeable. While a bespoke left and right controller molded to each hand would invariably be a better fit, it’s decidedly much more natural-feeling than the wands that come with the other Vive varieties on offer.

Photo by Road to VR

On the controller you’ll find a touchpad, an index finger trigger and a secondary grip button on the under side, and two awkwardly placed menu and home buttons that require you to adjust your grip to press.

In contrast to the dev kit, the new controllers offer only one new real hardware feature I could tell just by handling them; button and trigger presses offer an improved analogue feel. In short, the controllers get the job done and appear to do so without taxing the Snapdragon 835 too much.

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Hands-on: HoloLens 2 is a More Than Just a Larger Field of View

Improved Ergonomics & New Lenses

The new headset makes one obvious change from the original Vive Focus in the ergonomics department, a larger forehead piece that provides better weight distribution. And while it’s not an unsubstantial change, I’d really need a much longer session than an expo floor demo to figure out just how much of an effect it has. That said, it did feel more comfortable than Vive Focus, something I last tried at CES in January.

Now that the ultrasonic controller tracking system is embedded in the headset itself, the new Focus Plus boasts an obvious benefit over the dev kit by delivering better balance, as the front-heavy tracking tech is offset internally.

The one change that is pretty significant is the new optics, which are remarkably clearer than the previous Vive Focus. While I wasn’t able to get confirmation on what specifically changed from Focus to Focus Plus, thankfully it’s fairly easy to see with the naked eye.

Vive Focus Plus lenses, Photo by Road to VR

It appears the company has taken a few design cues from Samsung HMD Odyssey, which have a similar Fresnel ridge layout. All other Vive products, the original Vive Focus included, feature concentric Fresnel ridges that terminate at a much smaller circle in the middle of the lens. In Vive Focus Plus you can see the ridges dissipate much earlier before reaching the center.

Here’s a look at Samsung Odyssey for comparison:

Samsung Odyssey lenses, Image courtesy Tom’s Hardware

And now for the original Vive Focus.

Vive Focus lenses, Photo by Road to VR

The upside to the new lens design is a reduced perception of an optical artifact unique to Fresnels known as ‘god rays’, or streams of light that appear to emanate from the center of the lens and jut outwards like wispy beams of light. The only app on display with high enough contrast to test this was the company’s conceptual 5G Hub cloud-rendering setup that streamed PC VR shooter Superhot VR (2017) to Vive Focus Plus. The reduction in god rays was notable, and I’m hoping HTC moves more towards this lens style in future products.

Continued on Page 2 : Enterprise? Consumer? »

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  • Muzufuzo

    for that specs people may want to pay $400 but definitely not more, it won’t sell at a higher price, remember what happened with Xbox One (with Kinect 2) in 2013/14 for $499 compared to PS4’s $399? you need a justification for a greater price and Focus Plus doesn’t have one (I am not saying it’s bad but it’s not awesome either)

  • MosBen

    Since it’s based on the same Snapdragon 835 that’s in the Quest, do we have any ideas about why the Vive Focus would be several hundreds of dollars more than the Quest? Is Oculus just taking a steep loss, or is there some expensive feature in the Focus that I’m overlooking that explains the cost difference?

    • MosBen

      Looking back at the news surrounding the Cosmos from CES, HTC was suggesting that they were going to have 4 hardware categories for VR: Enterprise (Vive Pro/Eye), Enthusiast (Vive), Casual Tethered (Cosmos), and standalone/mobile (Focus). It seems odd that their standalone device, which seems to me to be the most casual-friendly category, is being targeted at enterprise, especially since they have the Vive Pro as their enterprise category.

      • MosBen

        Eh, I might as well make this a self-referential thread. With the Cosmos in the process of FTC certification over a month ago, and the Quest set to launch in the next four months, it seems like we should be getting some real information on these devices super soon, right? Pretty exciting times.

        • Trenix

          What’s so exciting? We’re getting worse devices for a similar price of devices that are three years older which are more powerful. Mark Cuck has thrown the Oculus in the trash and Vive is greedy as hell. VR is going to go behind another 10 years.

          • MosBen

            I don’t agree that the Quest or Focus is worse than the Rift or Vive. They’re different products that have strengths that the tethered headsets don’t have, and different use cases.

          • Trenix

            What are you talking about, the quest is intended for gaming. The wire isn’t a big as a problem as people portray it as and people are going to get a weaker headset with a much lower refresh rate. For gamers, performance and controller reliability is way more important than a wire.

            All that the current VR generation needs is better lenses and increased resolution with eye tracking. The wireless option should be an addon. Eye tracking in itself can reduce the need of having such a powerful computer to run a VR headset. There is a reason why one of the original founders of the Oculus stepped down. This is NOT the future.

            Also another thing to add, if your computer can’t run a VR headset by now, then you’re in need of an upgrade anyway.

          • Proof XR Lab

            The wire is not the issue nor the technical specifications of headsets; the two main issues are the lack of engaging, compelling content and cost of entry as a barrier to larger scale uptake.

            Content will not come until we have a larger installed user base. User base will not grow until we have the content. Chicken and egg situation. To resolve this takes financial heavy lifting (see Facebook underwriting content for Oculus platform).

            You can have the best headset in the world, but if there is nothing to do with it, its nothing more than a novelty, and novelty wear off quickly.

            Cost of entry is too high considering PC VR requires a headset and performance PC. Standalone headsets cut this cost by 2/3rd, allowing user base to grow as more casual adopters get on board.

            As someone who uses PC VR and standalone (including the Focus and Mirage) I can see the benefits of the standalone. The user base needs to dramatically grow, and quickly, to retain developers who cannot make money from VR unless underwritten by a backer like Facebook / Google.

          • Trenix

            I don’t know anyone who’s complained by the lack of content. It’s more of a lack of players. I believe a large portion of people are waiting for the next generation of VR, such as myself. And with these new devices, they wont bring them it whatsoever. VR developers continue to shoot themselves in the foot because rather than hearing out and obtaining new customers, they’re trying to sell them crappy products which give a far worse experience.

            As if the Oculus Go didn’t prove that it wasn’t what we wanted. As if the lack of sales in mixed reality didn’t state that that none of us want anything to do with it. Developer aren’t going to tell us what the future is, consumers are. They are the buyers and I’m not buying these trashy products. What are they aiming for, children? As if a parent would buy a system that a child puts on their head.

          • Proof XR Lab

            Your first comment is very interesting, “I don’t know anyone who’s complained by the lack of content. It’s more of a lack of players”.

            Why is there a lack of players?

            Players aren’t being attracted because the AAA content that is available on other gaming platforms (console, PC, mobile) is not available for VR.

            We had a couple of poorly optimised, previous generation AAA ports (Skyrim, Fallout and more recent Doom VFR), and some Oculus funded exclusives but we are lacking the big titles AAA to attract the wider audience.

            Lack of content and high equipment entry cost (barrier to entry) = lack of player

            We haven’t even see Half Life VR which considering Valve’s investment in VR is a real shame :(

          • MosBen

            The Nintendo Switch and the Xbox One are both intended for gaming. The Xbox One is significantly more powerful than the Nintendo Switch, but I don’t consider it necessarily superior because they both serve different needs. You may not think that a wired tether is a big deal for your use case, but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t use cases where it’s a very big deal. I’d love to take my Rift to my parent’s house, but I’m not going to lug my heavy gaming PC on a multi-hundred mile drive for a demo weekend with my family. And even as someone that is used to the wire I still sometimes get tangled enough to mess up a hit in Beat Saber, or have to be mindful of it as I turn around in a room-scale experience.

            As for eye tracking, you said that the Quest (and similar devices) were “worse” devices compared to the almost three-year old Rift and Vive. But while the Quest’s Snapdragon 835 is certainly less powerful than than most desktop machines that run a Rift (I will admit that I’m not sure exactly what its equivalent desktop graphics card would be), it does have significantly sharper screens, which will be a nice upgrade, especially for reading text in games and watching 3d movies, which the Rift kind of sucks at. And, of course, the Rift doesn’t have eye tracking, so it’s not really relevant to whether the Quest is “worse”.

            As for Iribe, from what I understand, the consensus about his leaving Facebook, though not confirmed, is that he wanted to put out a more ambitious Rift 2 (or whatever they’ll call it), while Facebook wanted a more incremental upgrade. It wasn’t about the Quest.

            As for your last paragraph, that’s just a misunderstanding of how most people use computers, the purpose of the Quest, and how VR hits the mainstream. Most people don’t own gaming PCs. Most people don’t even own desktops. Most people are using a laptop that’s a few years old and doesn’t have a discrete graphics card. Oculus also talked about the fact that they did market research and found that something like 85% of people were being held back from getting into VR due to the complexity of setting it up. The Quest, and similar headsets, aren’t for hardcore gamers that care primarily about pushing their expensive gaming PCs to the limit. It’s about giving people a cost-effective, convenient, and portable option to get into room-scale, 6DOF VR. It’s the Nintendo Switch of VR, and for a lot of people and situations, that’s a great option.

          • Trenix

            This isn’t Nintendo Switch vs Xbox One. I can’t even comprehend a single comparison. One relies on controllers that detect your movement, the other doesn’t. One is meant to be a mobile hand-held, while the other isn’t. Nintendo was also know for it’s exclusive games. There are just so many things that set these two consoles are apart.

            The Quest is trying to compare with the desktop with it’s only seller is that it doesn’t need a powerful computer and there is no cable attached. However, this means that the performance of the VR headset will be significantly lower. This essentially is meant for people who are living in poverty. There are plenty of other alternatives out there which already attract this kind of crowd and none of them succeeded.

            I mentioned eye-tracking because it can make a headset perform far better with a worse graphics card or processor. It may cost more, but the cost would be well worth it for both mobile and desktop users. Yes the rift didn’t have it, but there is no reason why we can’t have a simple upgrade for the rift to have it. A sharper screen and better lenses is definitely an improvement, but the refresh rate is far more important in regards to gaming and playing for a longer period of time.

            As far as I know about the departure of Iribe, it was because he wanted to focus on rift 2, rather than focusing on making a product for the masses. Oculus Go was a joke and so will the quest be in my opinion. Of course we don’t know the reality, but I wouldn’t place my bet on the Quest because of all the uncertainty, and you best believe that both customers and investors feel the same.

            As for your last paragraph, the vast majority of gamers use PC, not console. So again, who exactly is the target market that facebook is after? This is fact, go look up the statistics which are widely available online. Mark is a complete idiot when it comes to business, innovation, and practically everything. He has successfully destroyed the Oculus, you better hope Vive stops being so damn greedy or else the future of VR will be seen in decades, not years.

            That more maybe another entrepreneur comes along. Also the setup process is easy as hell, if you can’t setup a VR headset, you probably shouldn’t use a TV. We got plenty of people too afraid to switch to a smart phone, does that mean it needs to be more basic? No, people got to just not be so damn stupid.

          • MosBen

            The X-Box is a powerful gaming machine that is not mobile and requires other hardware to work, like a TV. The Switch is a system that trades processing power for portability, and can be used without any external hardware. Meanwhile, the Rift/Vive are HMDs designed to work with powerful gaming PCs and are not portable. The Quest, on the other hand, trades processing power for mobility and being self-contained, like the Switch. Sure there are differences, no comparison is perfect in every regard. The point is that they are similar in important ways which highlight that the different machines have different use cases which play to their strengths and weaknesses. Also, no requiring a powerful computer is a huge selling point. Most people don’t have a powerful gaming PC, and most people aren’t going to buy/build one just for VR. The requirement of having a gaming PC dramatically raises the cost of PC VR, which is a big reason why future PC HMDs from the bigger players are likely to play to lower spec machines out of the gate.

            I’m confused about your third paragraph. No easy update would give the Rift eye tracking. Maybe the next generation Rift will have eye tracking, but I’m not holding my breath.

            As for the vast majority of gamers using a PC, care to back that up with some numbers? It depends on how you classify gamers, but Steam has something like 90 million users, while there are something like 80 million PS4 users. Adding in people who use the Xbox One and Switch will easily eclipse 90 million, and that doesn’t count people who still play on previous generations of console hardware or the retro consoles like the NES Classic. At best, it doesn’t seem at all reasonable to suggest that the vast majority of gamers use PCs, and even people who play on PCs don’t necessarily have PCs with high end graphics cards necessary for VR (though the number of Steam users with VR capable PCs certainly is higher now than ever). But that’s beside the point, the target for the Quest is someone like my wife, who likes VR, but doesn’t consider herself a gamer, or my parents, who would never own a gaming PC, but might try something like the Quest. It’s designed to expand the community of VR.

            And you may consider VR setup to be easy as hell, but Oculus seems to have pretty solid evidence that lots of people don’t find that to be the case.

      • Tesla

        They say “This is for Enterprise use”, but then I see device which is just nothing special and worse than Odyssey+. Enterprise will simply get Odyssey+ or Quest, for much less.

        • MosBen

          Well, Odyssey+ requires a PC and a tether, so I get a pitch that being able to use a VR unit in almost any room with little setup and no separate computing unit is something that some enterprise users would want. But yeah, I’m not seeing a huge difference between this and the Quest that would explain a huge price difference. Maybe HTC offers enterprise customers some type of custom development/support that won’t be offered in a consumer-facing product? That’s the best that I have, because just from a hardware specs perspective it doesn’t seem like this is obviously superior to the Quest in any way, other than being available now.

      • MOT

        I would see cosmos as a vive replacement.

        • MosBen

          Didn’t HTC specifically say that it isn’t though?

    • Proof XR Lab

      HTC don’t have an advertising business (Facebook) underwriting their operating costs, nor their own app store operating at scale like Valve’s Steam. Viveport and Vive Wave do not generate enough revenue to offset profit loss on selling hardware near to cost (console business model).

      HTC have to maximise profit on each headset sold whether for PC VR or Standalone. Facebook are playing Oculus as a long game, and absorbing costs which HTC simply cannot afford due to their shaky financial situation.

      • MosBen

        That’s the best analysis that I’ve seen or can think of, but a several hundred dollar difference in price is still pretty big. Assuming that the hardware costs are more or less comparable, that means that HTC is taking a huge hit to sales by not making this a consumer facing product in order to net multiple hundreds of dollars of profit in per unit sales. I’m not sure that the math really works out great there, but like I said, it’s the best explanation that I’ve heard.

        • Proof XR Lab

          The problem for HTC is scaling up production, which has a high cost attached (bill of materials, manufacturing, warehousing, shipping) they probably cannot afford given their well publicised financial problems (as a company, not a VR division).

          By keeping production runs small, by selling smaller volume of higher profit “prosumer” and enterprise equipment, requires less up front finance, the lead time from ‘factory to shop floor’ (production of unit to final sale of unit) is critical in terms of cash flow.

          Companies with poor financial performance find it difficult to raise credit or even get credit insurance, and this has a dramatic impact on cash flow.

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    • dk

      if the panels r the same …basically no significant difference
      …but facebook can afford low profit from hardware at least until vr gets kick started in a big way and in the mean time making money on the software side ….and they r using a platform 2 generations behind to keep the price down
      ….and htc can’t afford low profit on hardware

      • MosBen

        Well, HTC is using the same older hardware platform, but the idea that Facebook is willing to make less profit makes sense, though a few hundred dollars per unit of pure profit is a pretty big difference.

        • dk

          yep like I said they r both using the same hardware basically …and one can afford low profit on the hardware

    • Both of two:
      – Facebook is surely selling at cost / at loss. They have deep pockets and want to win the war now to take the money back on the long run;
      – HTC is aiming at enterprise markets and so the price results artificially high

      • G-man

        yep, but i dont get why any enterprise market would bother paying double. because they are a usiness suddenly means they can pay doubl for something they can get the same thing for half the price…

    • Lucidfeuer

      Purely manufacturing costs and margins. Also on the chinese market they don’t have Oculus has a competitors.

  • MW

    No.

    • AlexanderBailey

      I’ve tried the Vive Focus. It had major lagging issues and the head strap broke down immediately. It’s total rubbish. I sent it back. Add 6dof and it can probably only handle 16 polys.

      So yes, agreed!

  • oompah

    Vive needs to evolve further similar to hololens but instead of costly optical waveguides I would recommend this :

    https://www.roadtovr.com/letinar-pinhole-effect-optics-larger-fov-mwc-2019/

    i.e. inexpensive pinhole mirror technology that can give very wide depth of focus.

  • HomeAudio

    “Hands-on: Vive Focus Plus Brings 6DOF Controllers, Design of a Toilet Seat and New Lenses & Better Comfort”

    The title is not too long??…. :/

  • Thanks for this interesting review!