HTC launched the Vive Focus System Update 2.0 this week to add quite a few extra features to the headset. A new companion app for HTC smartphones also brings smartphone-to-headset functions to the Vive Focus.
HTC shared a slew of interesting new updates for the Vive Focus this week at the company’s Vive Ecosystem Conference 2018 in China. In addition to the ability to stream PC VR applications to the headset, as well as a 6DOF controller mode and gesture input, the company announced the System Update 2.0 for the Focus.
Available now to Focus users, the update brings ‘Passenger Mode’ which offers an additional hour of battery life (up to four hours), according to HTC, for seated VR experiences like watching video content. We take it this is achieved by disabling the headset’s 6DOF tracking and allowing it to function as a simple 3DOF headset (thereby reducing the processing workload), which would have the added benefit of preventing the movements of a car or plane from throwing off the headset’s tracking.
The update also offers a pass-through video mode—double tapping the power button allows users to peer through the Focus’ front-facing cameras to see what’s around them without removing the headset.
The System Update 2.0 also allows users to install applications directly to a microSD card inserted into the headset, which the company says supports cards up to 2TB—a notable advantage over the Oculus Go which only comes in 32GB and 64GB sizes with no memory expansion.
The update also makes way for a range of smartphone-to-headset features. With the updated Vive Companion app, users with HTC smartphones will be able to answer calls from their phone directly on their headset, and see text messages and other “social notifications,” though it isn’t clear if notifications are limited to specific apps or system-wide.
Those with HTC’s new U12+ will also be able to mirror the phone’s display into the Focus, allowing users to view and use existing applications inside their headset, though it isn’t clear if users will be able to control them with input from the headset or if they’ll need to use their phone’s touchscreen while effectively blind.
We’ve reached out to HTC for clarification on both the scope of in-headset notifications and precisely how screen mirroring will work.
A video released by HTC also shows a smartphone being used as a controller for the headset as both an attachment to a peripheral and as a companion controller to the Focus’ official 3DOF controller, as well as mirroring the headset’s view to a phone so that others can see what’s happening inside.
The Vive Focus is only presently available to consumers in China, while the company is selling the headset as a dev kit in the West, with a consumer launch expected later this year.