HTC today announced a 6DOF controller tracking add-on for Vive Focus. The add-on, which includes a pair of new controllers, is being released as a development kit.

Vive Focus, HTC’s standalone VR headset, had a full blown launch in China at the beginning of 2018, and was released as a development kit in the West in May. One of the headset’s defining features was inside-out 6DOF headtracking, but the single controller that the headset ships with offers only basic 3DOF input.

Vive China President Alvin Wang Graylin announces the Vive Focus 6DOF controller dev kit on stage at WCVRI in Nanchang, the captiral of China’s Jiangxi province. | Image courtesy HTC

Seemingly in response to both Oculus Quest and the experimental 6DOF controller add-on for the Mirage Solo, HTC today announced that the Vive Focus will get its own 6DOF controller tracking add-on as a dev kit, which adapts existing Focus headsets for tracking a pair of new 6DOF controllers. Developers can submit their interest in receiving the Vive Focus 6DOF controller dev kit add-on starting today.

While Vive Focus was among the first standalone VR headset to include inside-out 6DOF headtracking, being paired with a 3DOF controller puts it in a very awkward design space where developers have to design for a system which can fully track the user’s head but can only partly track the user’s hand, which ultimately limits the kinds of games and experiences that can be built for the device. Adding good 6DOF controller tracking to the headset stands to increase immersion and enable more compelling content.

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HTC previously announced that the Vive Focus 3DOF controller would get a 6DOF mode, but the controllers we’re seeing from the 6DOF controller dev-kit are different controllers all together.

Few details have emerged about how the tracking system works, but HTC says that the 6DOF controller dev kit for Vive Focus includes two new controllers and a “tracking attachment” for the headset itself. Other headsets like Quest use on-board cameras to locate and track IR LEDs on the controllers. Vive Focus already includes on-board cameras for managing its own headtracking, but the add-on suggests some other tech is being employed to track the new 6DOF controllers. From the images we have, the Vive Focus 6DOF controllers appear to have a looped top which likely contains hardware to support the tracking tech.

When asked what HTC’s plans are for bringing 6DOF controller tracking to consumers, the company told Road to VR that it has plans to release new headsets based on Vive Wave (HTC’s mobile VR OS which also powers other non-HTC headsets) which will include 6DOF positional tracking. The dev kit, HTC said, will enable developers to build for those forthcoming devices.

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Ben is the world's most senior professional analyst solely dedicated to the XR industry, having founded Road to VR in 2011—a year before the Oculus Kickstarter sparked a resurgence that led to the modern XR landscape. He has authored more than 3,000 articles chronicling the evolution of the XR industry over more than a decade. With that unique perspective, Ben has been consistently recognized as one of the most influential voices in XR, giving keynotes and joining panel and podcast discussions at key industry events. He is a self-described "journalist and analyst, not evangelist."
  • Luke

    will the bundle price be very costly enough to love this device as much as others very costly devices are?

    • Nejham Mosquera

      Not even giving them for free, the vive focus would be cheaper than the Quest with the touch controllers.
      It might end up being as expensive as a vive with the wireless tracker.

    • Rogue Transfer

      Last paragraph in article explains. HTC plans to release the controllers with new headsets(previously reported using the latest, low-priced, VR-optimised, Snapdragon XR1 SoC) soon with some of them having everything built-in for 6DOF controllers.

      These add-ons for the Vive Focus are for developers to make software for these new all-in-one headsets. So, it looks like they may or may not be launching a separate add-in for Focus.

      • Luke

        is Snapdragon XR1 SoC a better GPU than the one on the oculus quest?

  • LowRezSkyline

    Honestly don’t bother it’s already too late. You lost this one to Oculus (quest). they’ve shown more, they will delivery in the West probably a year before HTC is available. By then anything and everything will be ported to it and let’s face it, none of these companies are Nintendo where their own IP’s are so strong they create a natural brand loyalty and a reason to wait for them (aka HTC has nothing unique, really, that keeps me on their platform versus Oculus).

    Hell I honestly could give a fuck what I play my VR library on, the only reason I chose HTC was my burning hatred for all things Facebook. BUT if I have no other choice, sorry HTC, you lose.

    And lets face it it’s not like HTC has done a great job at making us feel all warm and fuzzy, I don’t know about anyone else but the finickiness of my HTC setup is maddening. Seems like everything mother fucking time windows updates I have to mess around to get my audio working again, or now (thanks to the even shittier TPCast) my HMD lights up as if it’s working but my screens are black. Fucking lovely.

    So yeah the sooner I don’t have to touch any of this beta software/hardware and move on to something stand alone the better. And yeah I’m sure it will have its own problem but at lest shitty ass Windows is out of picture (or maybe its shitty-ass SteamVR? Or shitty ass HTC drivers?) Who knows, but it’s a total f-n joke compared to how real companies operate.

    • MosBen

      Sure, this one is probably too little, too late, but what if they release a more-powerful follow up that outclasses the Quest? I’m not someone that thinks that more powerful hardware is necessarily the key to success in VR, but it’s not nothing, and that’s doubly true in mobile, where graphics are more of a limiting factor.

      • WyrdestGeek

        Re more powerful: in order for it to be a killer, it would have to be more powerful, but also at the same price. $400 is pretty much my limit, no matter how cool it might be.

        • MosBen

          I think that $400 is pretty much the sweet spot for upper tier mobile VR, and it seems like most of the players agree. Maybe there could be a successful unit that was a bit more expensive, but not much more, and definitely not in the $1,000 range. I think that that’s a big reason why Oculus went with the Snapdragon 835, instead of the much cooler 845. They just couldn’t make the cost work out, which is a bummer, but probably the right call.

          If the Quest is the first VR device for lots of people, they don’t need to be wowed by realistic graphics. If it can do Beat Saber, The Blu, and things like that, it’ll be good enough.

          • G-man

            plus i doubt htc can afford to sell headsets at cost like it seems facebook is doing with quest. this vive focus is already way more epxnsive than the quest, it’ll probably be even more with tracked controllers. no one is going to pay double the price for the same thing.

          • daveinpublic

            Not to mention, their past decisions with mobile phones and VR don’t inspire confidence. I don’t like the way they promised to deliver a DayDream headset, and then backed out on consumers and Google. They took the brand of Vive from their Steam work, and the collaboration with Daydream, and then leave out all of their collaborators on the finished Vive Wave platform in a money grab. Don’t think it will bode well for them in the long run, with either customers or software partners.

    • WyrdestGeek

      HTC is probably in a better position to try to catch up than Mirage Solo is.

      But you’re probably right anyway, they probably won’t be able to.

      Because, at the end of the day, HTC is having to *catch up* whereas Oculus was already like “Yeah. This is what we’re doing. We’re going to have three ‘tiers’ of headset” essentially.

      I mean up until a moment ago, it seemed that the market would be one where HTC would dominate the super high end of the market, and Oculus would take the low end.

      Now it all looks much different.

  • Man, it’s really time to get serious about mobile VR app development. With two tetherless, full tracking systems on the way, mobile VR is about to move from a so-so toy into a real VR player.

    There also might be a secondary market in offering large, safe places to use these systems in, maybe even in multiplayer games or competitions. Maybe we should start thinking about forming VR clubs and sharing the cost on indoor space rental?

    Even more interesting, these systems could make “E-Sports” interesting enough to actually reach mass appeal. Watching a seated player play 1st person shooters can be visually monotonous, since there’s no great physical interaction. But once people’s heads and arms are tracked, in those shooters, running is actually exhausting, shooting requires more skill, this might actually make those shooters worth watching!

  • TBVR

    Quest will be buy on day one for me. Never consider other mobile VR and currently I don’t see anything in the market that can compete with Quest. Also this HTC focus looks so ugly and bulky. Its mobile VR you need to look good and be compact.

    • Rogue Transfer

      The problem Quest appears to still show in recent demos at OC5, is that the tracking relies on the high-contrast markings on the floor & walls.

      Some reports said it wasn’t ready for the consumer and Oculus also said in their keynote that they will be ‘fine-tuning’ the tracking over the next months by scanning more rooms.

      It’s also officially not supporting outside and only recommending up-to 5m x 5m rooms.

      We’ll need to wait to see if Quest tracking turns as good as the onboard vision tracking in competing headsets(for example, the Vive Focus works excellently outside, even in plain grass fields). They’ve got 6 months yet, but I’d say wait for reviews under normal home conditions before deciding. Tracking is one area you don’t want a poorer solution.

      Plus, there’s battery life to consider. Quest is aiming for Oculus Go level(i.e. around 2 hours gaming). The newer headsets mentioned in the article by HTC have previously been reported to be using the latest VR-optimised, low-price Snapdragon XR1 SoC. This should have much better battery life over the 2 year old 835 SoC in Quest. Again, best deciding once we know for sure the details, next year.

      • daveinpublic

        The Quest has been demoed for a while now. At their latest conference, reporters tried them out in normal looking environments without any issues at all. As long as you’re room isn’t a white sphere, you should be fine. And also, just because they’re not supported outside doesn’t mean you can’t use them there. They’re probably just trying to wave any legal problems that would come from somebody walking into traffic because they’re lost in another environment.

  • WyrdestGeek

    Between this and that thing for Mirage Solo they mentioned, this is kind of cool: this is that thing that free market zealots go on about:
    Competition between companies meaning consumers get better products, and more choice.

  • dk