After a long wait, finally, the Vive Focus is ready to exit from its home country. You will be able to finally buy it in Europe and North America for $599, from the dedicated page on the HTC website.
HTC Vive Focus Specs
The Vive Focus is HTC’s standalone headset, the one that the Taiwanese/Chinese company wants to use to start making virtual reality widespread. It is based on Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 reference design and these are its specifications:
- Display: 3K AMOLED, total resolution 2880 x 1600
- Refresh rate: 75 Hz
- FOV: 110 degrees
- Adjustable IPD: Supported
- Processor: Qualcomm Snapdragon™ 835
- RAM: 4GB
- Storage: 32 GB internal memory; MicroSD™ slot,up to 2TB MicroSD™ external memory
- Audio input/output: Built-in microphones, built-in speakers (that is, integrated audio), 3.5mm stereo audio jack
- Connectivity: Wi-fi, Bluetooth, USB Type-C connector (with OTG support)
- Power and battery: Built-in rechargeable battery, QC3.0 fast charging, up to 3 hours of active use time, over one week standby time
- Headset tracking: inside-out 6 DOF tracking, with two frontal monochrome cameras
- Controller: single controller, 3 DOF+ tracking. You can pre-order a 6DOF Controllers devkit on HTC Vive website to have two 6 DOF controllers;
Vive Focus Functionalities
The headset features some fancy functionalities, like:
- Connectivity with Android phones: it is possible to connect the headset to an Android phone (the feature works with all the most modern ones), to see notifications for calls and SMS while playing with VR (the headset shows toast notifications, a bit like what Gear VR does). It is also possible to answer the call and use the Vive Focus as a Bluetooth headset so that to speak with people on the phone while playing with VR (it uses the HMD’s mic and speakers to perform the call);
- Casting from HTC phones: it is possible to cast the content of your HTC phone to the headset so that for instance you can run Netflix on the phone and watch the TV series as in a big screen in VR;
- Easy Miracast streaming;
- Use of Riftcat VRidge to play SteamVR games and apps, controlling them with your 3DOF controller or the Xbox controller;
- 6 DOF bimanual gesture tracking (upcoming): HTC is developing a solution to use the frontal cameras to track five hands gestures of the user, along with the hands position. The SDK is currently in a closed beta stage and has been given only to selected devs. I’m honored to be inside this group and I can say that for some applications, it is already usable, but it needs refinements;
- 6 DOF controllers (currently only available as a devkit): attaching a special add-on to the HTC Vive Focus, you can finally use both of your hands to play inside virtual reality. The devkit uses ultrasound tracking to offer you two 6 DOF controllers;
- Passthrough mode: it is possible to double click the power button to activate a screen through black and white 3D vision of the world around you. Very useful if you have for instance to drink something while you are in VR: you activate the passthrough vision, drink, de-activate passthrough and continue with your VR experience;
- Augmented and mixed reality functionalities. Thanks to a dirty hack developed by me and that you can find inside this blog post (I’ve put it open-source on GitHub!), it is possible to use the frontal cameras of the Focus to do augmented and mixed reality applications (notice: since it is a dirty hack, the AR that you obtain is still experimental… to have something perfect, we have to wait for an official solution by HTC).
I’ve used it to do a lot of stuff, like developing Beat Reality, a sound-reactive mixed reality application; or Enter The Maatrix, an experience that lets you see your world a bit like during the popular scenes of the movie Matrix, with the code-rain; I’ve also mixed the AR mode with gesture tracking and re-created the popular Magic Leap’s elephant scene;
Mixed reality is something all the VR companies are investing in (Google is going to unlock it for the Mirage Solo, Oculus will do fancy things with it with Quest) and I can assure you that it is really powerful. So the fact that it is currently enabled on the Focus is a great thing;
- Smart Battery Management: the headset goes in standby if you don’t use it and it turns it off automatically when it is in standby for too much time. It manages battery power very well;
- Passenger mode: possibility to disable 6 DOF tracking when it is not used (e.g. when you are using the Focus just to watch a movie) so that to make the battery time longer.
Vive Focus launch
The Focus had been launched in China with a big event in December 2016 and now finally comes officially to the western world. Until now you could only preorder devkits, while from now on in the US and Europe you can really buy the headset going on the Vive website. The headset will be available in 37 new countries. HTC Vive Focus price will start from $599.
As you can see from the price, it is a device targeted at the enterprise market. During the launch event, in fact, HTC has presented various partners that are or will use the Vive Focus: Immersive Factory, Innoactive, Wolksvagen Group, Modal, SimForHealth, etc…
Being an enterprise product, it also offers the possibility to pair it with professional services program. A clear business licensing model and dedicated support are two fundamental features for enterprise customers and that’s why HTC lets its purchasers buy the Advantage and Advantage+ professional packages (that were already available for the Vive Pro) together with the Focus.
The Vive Focus can be paired with the Vive Enterprise Advantage professional services program, which offers two tiers (Advantage or Advantage+) of commercial licensing, dedicated support, and service utilities for Vive enterprise hardware. Each program offers purchase protection with tailored hardware warranties, limited down time, dedicated support and advanced device management utilities such as a Kiosk mode and a batch configuration feature.
During the launch, HTC has also stressed the importance of Vive Wave, the SDK that lets you develop a VR program for one headset and then ship it for all the Vive Wave compatible standalone devices. It is a bit like the SteamVR of standalone headsets and at the moment features 15 hardware partners and 6 already released VR headsets. The store for Vive Wave programs is Viveport M, that is of course also the store of the Vive Focus.
Shadow Creator has joined the Vive Wave consortium today and will release a compatible VR headset on November, 11th (Chinese singles day). Copying-pasting the marketing announcement of the headset:
Shadow VR all-in-one HMD is equipped with a Snapdragon 835 Mobile VR Platform and Fresnel ultra-thin optical lens, using a self-developed holographic 3D UI Blue Cat and 6 degrees of freedom (DoF) capabilities. A 2K (2560×1440) HD display brings users a clearer and more realistic picture experience and the stereo dual-speaker sound effect makes the experience more immersive. Shadow VR is equipped with self-developed 6DoF controllers, which uses a nine-axis high-precision gyroscope, ray tracing, and a button layout compatible with most VR controllers today.
Should you buy it?
Should you buy it? Well, I’ve written various articles that can help you in deciding it:
- Exhaustive Vive Focus review;
- Vive Focus vs Oculus Go comparison;
- Vive Focus vs Oculus Quest preliminary comparison.
The short version is: I love the Focus, I think it is a very interesting device. I have had it for 7 months and I find it very comfortable and I love the possibility to play with cool stuff like camera passthrough, hand tracking or USB OTG. It is a lot hackable. With the feed of the frontal cameras, it is already possible to do mixed reality… and since the cameras are in the position of your eyes, you can also modify your vision, something that won’t be possible with the Quest.. For this reasons, I advise it to VR enthusiasts, makers, prosumers, research centers, enterprise and such. HTC is the leader in the enterprise sector and that’s why it is also targeting this device to this type of market, offering also a clear business licensing model. The real problems are the lenses, the unripe ecosystem and especially the fact that you have to buy a devkit to have two 6 DOF controllers.
For the average consumers, instead, it is not the ideal product yet: it will cost more than the Quest and the Go while having a worse form factor (only one official controller) and a library of content (Viveport M) that is still unripe if compared to Oculus Store. I think that people that want only to play games in VR, should buy one of Oculus’s headsets (Go or Quest). The problem of Quest is that it is coming probably in May 2019, so if you need a 6 DOF headset right now, you should buy the Focus.
In any case, I am happy that the Focus is coming to the Western world: I was afraid it was becoming a China-only product. Instead, it will go worldwide soon and this will re-create the HTC vs Oculus competition that has been so beneficial for us VR users. It will also be interesting to see how it will perform considering that it will launch various months before the Quest, but with lots of people that are hyped by the Quest and can’t wait to buy it.
Let’s see. In the meantime, good luck Focus 🙂
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