CES 2018: HTC announces Vive Pro and Vive Wireless Adapter

Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards | January 8, 2018 - 06:22 PM |
Tagged: wigig, VR, vive wireless adapter, vive pro, vive, steamvr, Oculus, htc, CES 2018, CES

As it turns out, HTC's teasing of a new Vive product late last week was well warranted. Today, at their press conference before CES 2018, HTC announced two new hardware products—the Vive Pro and the Vive Wireless adapter.

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Just like their teaser indicated, one of the major features of this new Vive hardware is an increased display resolution. The Vive Pro's resolution is 2880x1600 (combined), a 78% increase from the standard 2160×1200 resolution shared by the original Vive and the Oculus Rift.

Currently, there are no details about upgraded optics in the form of new lenses, but considering Valve's announcement of new lenses for future VR headsets, I would expect these to be included in the Vive Pro.

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In addition to the display improvements, there are also some design changes in the Vive Pro that aim to allow users to quickly put on the headset and adjust it for maximum comfortability. The Vive Pro now features a dial on the back of the head strap to adjust the headset rather than having to adjust velcro straps. This setup is very reminiscent of the PSVR headset which is widely regarded as one of the most comfortable VR headsets currently on the market.

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While we've already seen some of these design changes like integrated headphones in the currently shipping Deluxe Audio Strap for Vive, the Vive Pro is built from the ground up with this new strap instead of it being a replacement option.

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HTC was very quiet about the change from a single front-facing camera on the standard Vive to dual front cameras on the Vive Pro. Having stereo cameras on the device have the potential to provide a lot of utility ranging from a stereo view of your surroundings when you are nearing the chaperone boundaries to potential AR applications.

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The Vive Pro will work with the current 1.0 base stations for positional tracking, as well as Valve's previously announced but unreleased 2.0 base stations. When using SteamVR 2.0 tracking, the Vive Pro supports up to 4 base stations, allowing for a  significantly larger play area of up to 10m x 10m.

Initially, the Vive Pro is slated to ship this quarter as a headset-only upgrade for customers who already have the original Vive with its 1.0 base stations. The full Vive Pro kit with 2.0 tracking is said to ship in the Summer time frame. Pricing for both configurations is yet to be announced.

In addition to new headset hardware, HTC also announced their first official solution for wireless VR connectivity. 

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Built in partnership with Intel, the Vive Wireless Adapter will use 60 GHz WiGig technology to provide a low latency experience for wirelessly streaming video to the HMD. Both the original Vive and the Vive Pro will support this adapter set to be available this summer. We also have no indications of pricing on the Vive Wireless Adapter.

HTC's announcements today are impressive and should help push PC VR forward. We have yet to get hands-on experience with either the Vive Pro or the Vive Wireless adapter, but we have a demo appointment tomorrow, so keep checking PC Perspective for our updated impressions of the next generation of VR!

Source: HTC

CES 2018: HTC Teases new VIVE device announcement

Subject: General Tech | January 5, 2018 - 03:53 PM |
Tagged: VR, vive focus, vive, valve, steam vr, Oculus, knuckles, htc, CES 2018

In the run-up to CES 2018, the HTC Vive account on twitter tweeted an image teasing their press conference on Monday, January 8. 

While we've already heard about the standalone Snapdragon 835-powered HTC VIVE Focus set to start shipping in China later this month, it seems unlikely for this teaser to be referring to that device which HTC has already shown off to the public and press.

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Rather, it seems more likely that HTC is ready to start to talk about their next generation VIVE device for PC.

Both the graphic and tagline of "New Year's Resolution" obviously seem to be alluding to improved visual quality, and hopefully less of a screen door effect when wearing the headset. Whether or not this is achieved by a higher resolution display, or improved optics, or both has yet to be determined. 

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Another thing to look out for at this event will be the long-awaited "Knuckles" controllers showed off by Valve earlier this year. With a new generation of VR headset, I would expect the Knuckles controllers to be the bundled option going forward.

We'll be at HTC's VIVE press conference on the 8th, and have some time scheduled late in the week for demos of whatever they are showing off, so stay tuned for more details about their announcements as they happen!

Source: HTC

HTC Vive Price Drops to $599

Subject: General Tech | August 22, 2017 - 09:56 PM |
Tagged: pc gaming, vive, htc vive, valve, htc, price cut

While it looked like HTC and Valve wouldn’t budge on their launch price, the Vive has just been reduced $200 USD, from $799 down to $599. This is still significantly above the $399 USD price tag during their competitor’s summer sale, but it might be close enough for those who prefer the Vive for one reason or another.

I should note that their website still has payment plans through PayPal, which breaks up the $599 price tag into, they say, twelve chunks.

For me? This price cut came just a week and a bit late. I already picked up the Oculus. For us Canadians, it looks like the Vive sale price is $800 CDN on Amazon, versus the $550 mark for the Rift with Touch and two sensors. That said, if I didn’t jump on the Oculus... would I consider the Vive? At this price, I’m still not sure. I’m wary of a hardware refresh, now that these devices are hitting the one-and-a-half year mark. The Oculus, during its sale, is priced in the “Meh” territory. It would have served its purpose until it’s replaced. The extra couple hundred dollars on the Vive might just push it out of the “eh, if it’s replaced, so what” range.

On the other hand, the Vive can be upgraded with a wireless kit, and I do have issues with the Oculus sensors being obstructed. It’s an interesting move for sure.

Source: Vive

HTC Vive Standalone VR Headset to expand VR market with low cost, dedicated hardware

Subject: Mobile | July 27, 2017 - 01:12 PM |
Tagged: htc, vive, VR, virtual reality, qualcomm, snapdragon, snapdragon 835

This article first appeared on MarketWatch and Shrout Research.

During the ChinaJoy 2017 event in Shanghai, VR pioneer HTC announced its standalone VR headset aimed at the China market. This marks the first major player in the virtual reality space to officially reveal a standalone product intended for the broad consumer market that requires a more affordable, portable VR solution.

Standalone VR headsets differ from the current options on the market in two distinct ways. First, they are disconnected from a PC and don’t require attachment to a desktop for processing or display output. The current HTC Vive product that ships in the market, as well as Facebook’s Oculus Rift, require a high-end PC to play VR games and use HDMI and USB connections to power the headsets. This new standalone design also moves away from the slot-in design of the Samsung Gear VR and doesn’t require the user to monopolize their smartphone for VR purposes.

Though mobile-first VR solutions like Gear VR have existed for several years, selling on the market before the PC-based solutions were released, the move of HTC from tethered virtual reality to a wireless standalone unit signals a shift in the market. Consumers see the value and quality experiences that VR can provide but the expense and hassle of in-place configurations have stagnated adoption.

Caption - VIVE Standalone VR headset designed for the Chinese market and....jpg

HTC is using the Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 Mobile Platform to power the Vive Standalone VR Headset, the same chipset used in many high-end smartphones on the market today. Qualcomm and HTC can modify traits of the processor to improve performance without worrying about the sensitive battery life of a consumer’s phone. Though we don’t know the specifics of what HTC might have modified for the configuration of this standalone unit, it likely is a mirror of the Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 VR hardware development kit that was announced in February. That design includes the capability for six degrees of freedom tracking (moving around a space accurately without external sensors), high resolution displays for each eye, and a full suite of graphics and digital signal processors to handle the complex workloads of VR experiences.

Though HTC is the first to announce and a complete standalone VR product, HTC and others announced their intent to release standalone units in the US later this year through Google’s Daydream program. Lenovo plans to build a VR headset using the same Qualcomm reference design for the Daydream platform.

Facebook-owned Oculus has not officially announced its intent but rumors in July point us to another Qualcomm-powered headset that will sell for around $200. Facebook plans to reveal the hardware in October.

HTC’s decision to target the China market first is driven by its ability to promote its custom Viveport software store in a region that does not offer Google services like the Android Play Store or Daydream. HTC will leverage a customer base that is larger than North America and Western Europe combined, and one that is expected to grow rapidly. IDC statistics show VR headset shipments reaching 10.1 million units this year and target 61 million units by 2020 worldwide. iResearch Consulting estimates Chinese VR market revenues to reach $8.1B in that same time frame.

Growth in VR and AR (augmented reality) is driven by the consumer markets but it is the enterprise implementations that provide the push for expanded usage models. Medical professionals already utilize VR technology to analyze data and mechanical engineers can dissect and evaluate models of products in a virtual space to improve and speed up workflows. Target fields also include factory workers, emergency personnel, the military, delivery drivers, and nearly all facets of business. As VR technology improve usability, comfort, and general societal acceptance, the merger of virtual and augmented reality hardware will create a new age of connected consumers.

Author:
Manufacturer: Various

Background and setup

A couple of weeks back, during the excitement surrounding the announcement of the GeForce GTX 1080 Ti graphics card, NVIDIA announced an update to its performance reporting project known as FCAT to support VR gaming. The updated iteration, FCAT VR as it is now called, gives us the first true ability to not only capture the performance of VR games and experiences, but the tools with which to measure and compare.

Watch ths video walk through of FCAT VR with me and NVIDIA's Tom Petersen

I already wrote an extensive preview of the tool and how it works during the announcement. I think it’s likely that many of you overlooked it with the noise from a new GPU, so I’m going to reproduce some of it here, with additions and updates. Everyone that attempts to understand the data we will be presenting in this story and all VR-based tests going forward should have a baseline understanding of the complexity of measuring VR games. Previous tools don’t tell the whole story, and even the part they do tell is often incomplete.

If you already know how FCAT VR works from reading the previous article, you can jump right to the beginning of our results here.

Measuring and validating those claims has proven to be a difficult task. Tools that we used in the era of standard PC gaming just don’t apply. Fraps is a well-known and well-understood tool for measuring frame rates and frame times utilized by countless reviewers and enthusiasts, but Fraps lacked the ability to tell the complete story of gaming performance and experience. NVIDIA introduced FCAT and we introduced Frame Rating back in 2013 to expand the capabilities that reviewers and consumers had access to. Using more sophisticated technique that includes direct capture of the graphics card output in uncompressed form, a software-based overlay applied to each frame being rendered, and post-process analyzation of that data, we could communicate the smoothness of a gaming experience, better articulating it to help gamers make purchasing decisions.

vrpipe1.png

For VR though, those same tools just don’t cut it. Fraps is a non-starter as it measures frame rendering from the GPU point of view and completely misses the interaction between the graphics system and the VR runtime environment (OpenVR for Steam/Vive and OVR for Oculus). Because the rendering pipeline is drastically changed in the current VR integrations, what Fraps measures is completely different than the experience the user actually gets in the headset. Previous FCAT and Frame Rating methods were still viable but the tools and capture technology needed to be updated. The hardware capture products we used since 2013 were limited in their maximum bandwidth and the overlay software did not have the ability to “latch in” to VR-based games. Not only that but measuring frame drops, time warps, space warps and reprojections would be a significant hurdle without further development. 

vrpipe2.png

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NVIDIA decided to undertake the task of rebuilding FCAT to work with VR. And while obviously the company is hoping that it will prove its claims of performance benefits for VR gaming, it should not be overlooked the investment in time and money spent on a project that is to be open sourced and free available to the media and the public.

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NVIDIA FCAT VR is comprised of two different applications. The FCAT VR Capture tool runs on the PC being evaluated and has a similar appearance to other performance and timing capture utilities. It uses data from Oculus Event Tracing as a part of the Windows ETW and SteamVR’s performance API, along with NVIDIA driver stats when used on NVIDIA hardware to generate performance data. It will and does work perfectly well on any GPU vendor’s hardware though with the access to the VR vendor specific timing results.

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Continue reading our first look at VR performance testing with FCAT VR!!

Author:
Manufacturer: NVIDIA

VR Performance Evaluation

Even though virtual reality hasn’t taken off with the momentum that many in the industry had expected on the heels of the HTC Vive and Oculus Rift launches last year, it remains one of the fastest growing aspects of PC hardware. More importantly for many, VR is also one of the key inflection points for performance moving forward; it requires more hardware, scalability, and innovation than any other sub-category including 4K gaming.  As such, NVIDIA, AMD, and even Intel continue to push the performance benefits of their own hardware and technology.

Measuring and validating those claims has proven to be a difficult task. Tools that we used in the era of standard PC gaming just don’t apply. Fraps is a well-known and well-understood tool for measuring frame rates and frame times utilized by countless reviewers and enthusiasts. But Fraps lacked the ability to tell the complete story of gaming performance and experience. NVIDIA introduced FCAT and we introduced Frame Rating back in 2013 to expand the capabilities that reviewers and consumers had access to. Using more sophisticated technique that includes direct capture of the graphics card output in uncompressed form, a software-based overlay applied to each frame being rendered, and post-process analyzation of that data, we were able to communicate the smoothness of a gaming experience, better articulating it to help gamers make purchasing decisions.

pipe1.jpg

VR pipeline when everything is working well.

For VR though, those same tools just don’t cut it. Fraps is a non-starter as it measures frame rendering from the GPU point of view and completely misses the interaction between the graphics system and the VR runtime environment (OpenVR for Steam/Vive and OVR for Oculus). Because the rendering pipeline is drastically changed in the current VR integrations, what Fraps measures is completely different than the experience the user actually gets in the headset. Previous FCAT and Frame Rating methods were still viable but the tools and capture technology needed to be updated. The hardware capture products we used since 2013 were limited in their maximum bandwidth and the overlay software did not have the ability to “latch in” to VR-based games. Not only that but measuring frame drops, time warps, space warps and reprojections would be a significant hurdle without further development.  

pipe2.jpg

VR pipeline with a frame miss.

NVIDIA decided to undertake the task of rebuilding FCAT to work with VR. And while obviously the company is hoping that it will prove its claims of performance benefits for VR gaming, it should not be overlooked the investment in time and money spent on a project that is to be open sourced and free available to the media and the public.

vlcsnap-2017-02-27-11h31m17s057.png

NVIDIA FCAT VR is comprised of two different applications. The FCAT VR Capture tool runs on the PC being evaluated and has a similar appearance to other performance and timing capture utilities. It uses data from Oculus Event Tracing as a part of the Windows ETW and SteamVR’s performance API, along with NVIDIA driver stats when used on NVIDIA hardware to generate performance data. It will and does work perfectly well on any GPU vendor’s hardware though with the access to the VR vendor specific timing results.

fcatvrcapture.jpg

Continue reading our preview of the new FCAT VR tool!

UploadVR Tries Wireless Vive Accessory by TPCAST

Subject: General Tech | December 22, 2016 - 10:33 PM |
Tagged: VR, vive, pc gaming, htc

A little over a month ago, we reported on HTC’s announcement of the wireless upgrade kit for their Vive. It was created by TPCAST, which was a participant in HTC’s VR startup accelerator. The actual upgrade kits won’t ship until early 2017, but UploadVR was given some time with the wireless accessory. The video was shot in the UploadVR office, which makes this the first public usage outside of a controlled event as far as I am aware, but TPCAST was present.

htc-2016-tpcast-wireless-vive.jpg

Image Credit: UploadVR

It apparently works. The previewer didn’t have any real complaints about its performance versus wired, and they were satisfied with its tracking, despite doing flips and other maneuvers to try to break communication with the wireless bases. This is promising, as the 60 GHz signal, used by the wireless adapter, can be picky about anything except direct line-of-sight. That said, the video base station is designed to be placed on the ceiling, with a 160-degree FOV, so it shouldn’t be too obstructed in almost any scenario.

According to UploadVR, TPCAST claims that it adds less than 2ms of delay.

While we are on this topic, there have been rumors that HTC might announce (probably just announce) a replacement to the original VIVE unit. One possibility is that it is basically the same system, just with the wireless functionality built in, making this upgrade kit sufficient for first-generation adopters. That would probably be the only scenario, at least that I can think of, which doesn’t involve a bunch of angry 2016 buyers, though.

We’ll see when CES rolls around.

Source: UploadVR

Learn about the tech in Vive's Lighthouse

Subject: General Tech | December 22, 2016 - 12:58 PM |
Tagged: vive, valve, Lighthouse, alan yates

Curious about the tech behind Valve's Lighthouse room-scale VR positioning system for the HTC Vive?  Learn about it from Alan Yates, one of the leads on the project at Valve over at Hack a Day in a 40 minute video.  He discusses the various attempts at finding a way to make the positioning system work, from failed bearings to the eventual discovery of the optimal thickness for the mirror. If you can't wait for the second generation of Lighthouse, he also provides you with a way to get your hands on an ASIC on a breakout board which will help you build your own version.

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"[Alan Yates] is a hacker’s engineer. His job at Valve has been to help them figure out the hardware that makes virtual reality (VR) a real reality. And he invented a device that’s clever enough that it really should work, but difficult enough that it wasn’t straightforward how to make it work."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: Hack a Day

A VR capable machine for less than the headset?

Subject: Systems | November 9, 2016 - 03:31 PM |
Tagged: VR, vive, rift, Oculus, htc, build guide, amd

Neoseeker embarked on an interesting project recently; building a VR capable system which costs less than the VR headset it will power.  We performed a similar feat this summer, a rig which at the time cost roughly $900.  Neoseeker took a different path, using AMD parts to keep the cost low while still providing the horsepower required to drive a Rift or Vive.  They tested their rig on The Lab, Star Wars: Trials on Tatooine and Waltz of the Wizard, finding the performance smooth and most importantly not creating the need for any dimenhydrinate.  There are going to be some games this system struggles with but at total cost under $700 this is a great way to experience VR even if you are on a budget.

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"Team Red designed this system around their very capable Radeon RX 480 8GB video card and the popular FX-6350 Vishera 6-Core CPU. The RX 480 is obviously the main component that will not only be leading the dance, but also help drive the total build cost down thanks to its MSRP of $239. At the currently listed online prices, the components for system will cost around $660 USD in total after applicable rebates."

Here are some more Systems articles from around the web:

Systems

Source: Neoseeker

Europeans: Epic Games Is Hosting a VR Game Jam

Subject: General Tech | September 6, 2016 - 05:58 PM |
Tagged: nvidia, epic games, valve, htc, vr funhouse, vive

So Epic Games, NVIDIA, and HTC (with Valve) are hosting a game jam aboard the MS Bleichen ship in Hamburg, Germany. The purpose is to develop mods for VR Funhouse. Nothing says a fun VR experience like room-scale experiences on a boat. Hopefully it will be firmly docked to prevent judges from getting sea-sick... or not. Maybe that will make the carnival games even better?

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The jam takes place between September 24th and September 26th. Epic, NVIDIA, and Valve will be donating prizes to the event. Tickets cost 16.67 Euros, although I'm guessing that doesn't include food or a place to sleep -- they don't say one way or the other. The general public can also buy tickets for the last day, to experience the creations.

Source: EventBrite