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.

Podcast #459 - Threadripper Pricing, Liquid Cooled VEGA, Intel Rumors, and more!

Subject: General Tech | July 20, 2017 - 11:53 AM |
Tagged: zenbook, z270, wireless charging, water cooling, VR, video, Vega, TSMC, thermaltake, SILVIA, podcast, Pacific, Oculus, Kabby Lake-R, corsair, Contac, asus, amd

PC Perspective Podcast #459 - 07/20/17

Join us for Threadripper Pricing, Liquid Cooled VEGA, Intel Rumors, and more!

You can subscribe to us through iTunes and you can still access it directly through the RSS page HERE.

The URL for the podcast is: http://pcper.com/podcast - Share with your friends!

Hosts: Ryan Shrout, Jeremy Hellstrom, Josh Walrath, Allyn Malventano

Peanut Gallery: Ken Addison, Alex Lustenberg, Jim Tanous

Program length: 1:46:03

 
Podcast topics of discussion:
  1. Week in Review:
  2. News items of interest:
  3. Hardware/Software Picks of the Week
    1. 1:36:30 Jeremy: Deal on a Ryzen 7 1700
    2. 1:41:04 Allyn: Still using WMC? You need EPG123!
  4. Closing/outro

Subscribe to the PC Perspective YouTube Channel for more videos, reviews and podcasts!!

Source:

The Oculus Pacific, bringing VR to the masses?

Subject: General Tech | July 14, 2017 - 01:12 PM |
Tagged: oculus rift, VR, Pacific, xiaomi, snapdragon

Coming right after the announced reduction in the price of the Oculus Rift is a rumour about a new VR headset from the company which will cost significantly less than the current model.  The Oculus 'Pacific' will be powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon of some description and will be manufactured by Xiaomi.  The smaller headset will sell for around $200, and be announced in October, likely during the Oculus Connect 4 event.  From what The Inquirer has learned, the headset will not require additional hardware to run which will make this VR headset much more accessible to the average consumer.

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"FACEBOOK-OWNED Oculus is reportedly working on a standalone virtual reality (VR) headset that'll cost just $200 (around £155)."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

 

Source: The Inquirer

Razer HDK2 Is $399 (and Even Less for Some)

Subject: General Tech | July 10, 2017 - 06:21 PM |
Tagged: VR, razer, osvr

Last night, we reported on Oculus dropping the price of their Rift + Touch being reduced to $399 USD ($549 CDN). In the comments of that story, mLocke, who is a regular in our IRC chat, mentioned that Razer’s HDK2 is also $399. Even better, if you are a developer or involved in an educational institution, you can also apply to receive an addition 20% discount, which would bring the cost down to about $319 USD. There is also something about a “2 for 1 promotion” for academics and researchers, but you need to email them for that.

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That said, the OSVR HDK2 doesn’t come with a controller, unlike the Oculus Rift + Touch. Also, while OSVR is expected to form the basis of OpenXR, because Razer donated the API to the Khronos Group, it doesn’t support as much as Oculus or the HTC Vive. That said, if you’re a developer that only cares about your own content, it works with Unreal Engine 4 and Unity, and you can probably add support to other engines yourself. (Update @ 7:47pm: I just realized that this previous sentence doesn't mean what I intended it to. There's a lot of engines that already support OSVR, including Lumberyard and CryEngine. I meant that if you're working on your own, then the SDK is available as well. I didn't mean that Unity and Unreal Engine were the only ones with available plug-ins.)

So, for a consumer that is torn between both deals, I would probably point you to the Oculus one. If you’re a developer, educator, or researcher, then you might want to reach out to OSVR and see. It might be your best option.

Source: Razer

Oculus Rift + Touch Short-Term Price Reduction to $399

Subject: General Tech | July 10, 2017 - 07:01 AM |
Tagged: VR, Oculus

For a limited time (UploadVR claims six weeks although I don’t see where that listed on any official source) Oculus has reduced the price of the Rift + Touch VR system from $598 to $399 USD. For us Canadians out there, this translates to $549 CDN, which is about on par with the exchange rate these days. Their hope is to bring VR into the price range of a gaming console, which multi-platform gamers are (obviously, otherwise they wouldn’t be multi-platform) willing to accept.

This also puts it at almost exactly half of the price of the HTC Vive in both countries, which makes for an interesting comparison. They both offer about the same level of hardware, albeit with some minor differences, and Oculus has been pushing quite a bit of exclusive, free content, like Robo Recall. One concern that I have, however, is whether Oculus can maintain stock levels throughout the entire period, since availability was one of the areas that HTC got right, and did so long before Oculus.

The cynic in me also wonders how long it will be before HTC and Oculus VR release their second-generation consumer VR kits. All we’ve heard about from HTC is accessories, like the wireless upgrade kit and the tracker, alongside a Daydream-based standalone unit, which is a much different market than PC VR.

Either way, $399 is quite cheap for what you’re getting, so it seems like a good deal if you're interested.

Source: Oculus

Qualcomm Partners with Bosch, OmniVision, and Ximmerse to Shore Up Mobile VR Sensors

Subject: Mobile | June 27, 2017 - 08:00 PM |
Tagged: xr, VR, qualcomm, google, daydream, AR

Qualcomm has put forward steady work on creating the vibrant hardware ecosystem for mobile VR to facilitate broad adoption of wireless, dedicated head mounted displays. Though the value of Samsung’s Gear VR and Google’s Daydream View cannot but overstated in moving the perception of consumer VR forward, the need to utilize your smart phone in a slot-in style design has its limitations. It consumes battery that you may require for other purposes, it limits the kinds of sensors that the VR system can utilize, and creates a sub-optimal form factor in order to allow for simple user installation.

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The Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 VR Reference Device

Qualcomm created the first standalone VR HMD reference design back in early 2016, powered by the Snapdragon 820 processor. Google partnered with Qualcomm at I/O to create the Daydream standalone VR headset reference design with the updated Snapdragon 835 Mobile Platform at its core, improving performance and graphical capability along the way. OEMs like Lenovo and HTC have already committed to Daydream standalone units, with Qualcomm at the heart of the hardware.

Qualcomm Technologies recently announced a HMD Accelerator Program (HAP) to help VR device manufacturers quickly develop premium standalone VR HMDs. At the core of this program is the standalone VR HMD reference design. It goes beyond a simple prototype device, offering a detailed reference design that allows manufacturers to apply their own customizations while utilizing our engineering, design, and experience in VR. The reference design is engineered to minimize software changes, hardware issues, and key component validation.

- Hugo Swart, Qualcomm Atheros, Inc.

As part of this venture, and to continue pushing the VR industry forward to more advanced capabilities like XR (extended reality, a merger of VR and AR), Qualcomm is announcing agreements with key component vendors aiming to tighten and strengthen the VR headset ecosystem.

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Hugo Swart, Senior Director, Product Management, Qualcomm Atheros, Inc.

Ximmerse has built a high-precision and drift-free controller for VR applications that offers low latency input and 3DoF (3 degrees of freedom) capability. This can “provide just about any interaction, such as pointing, selecting, grabbing, shooting, and much more. For precise 6 DoF positional tracking of your head, tight integration is required between the sensor fusion processing (Snapdragon) and the data from both the camera and inertial sensors.”

Bosch Sensortec has the BMX055 absolute orientation sensor that performs the function that its name would imply: precisely locating the user in the real world and tracking movement via accelerometer, gyroscope, and magnetometer.

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Finally, OmniVision integrates the OV9282 which is a 1MP high speed shutter image sensor for feature tracking.

These technologies, paired with the work Qualcomm has already done for the Snapdragon 835 VR Development Kit, including on the software side, is an important step to the growth of this segment of the market. I don’t know of anyone that doesn’t believe standalone, wireless headsets are the eventual future of VR and AR and the momentum created by Qualcomm, Google, and others continues its steady pace of development.

Source: Qualcomm

Yungchin Realty Group Partners with iStaging

Subject: General Tech | May 27, 2017 - 10:11 PM |
Tagged: xr, VR, mr, istaging, AR

iStaging is virtual-, augmented-, and mixed-reality company that focuses on the real estate, interior design, furniture, and related industries. The news that lead to this post is that Yungching Realty Group, based out of Taiwan, has partnered with iStaging to enhance their real estate business with VR and AR. The demo that they are showing at their press conference was a virtual street, which presented information about restaurants, schools, and other points of interest for someone researching the neighborhood.

istaging-2017-threedemos.jpg

I’d expect our audience is more interested in the technology side of this, although let us know in the comments (or via email – my address is in my author page linked on the byline) if you’re interested in the enterprise / real-estate side. From the technology standpoint, it’s interesting to see applications like these push high-end graphics into more and more businesses, large and small. Likewise, these applications give a stable income that XR technology companies (ex: HTC Vive) can rely upon while they find a foothold in fickle, but potentially lucrative consumer market.

Lastly, I’m curious what applications will be possible when another round of innovation learns from this generation. What does this enable, even if only by expanding what people think is possible?

Definitely something to think about.

Source: iStaging

GTC 17: NVIDIA Demos (Professional) Multi-User VR

Subject: Graphics Cards | May 9, 2017 - 07:01 AM |
Tagged: VR, quadro, nvidia, gp102

Four Quadro P6000s installed in a single server, which looks like a 4U rack-mounted box, are shown running four HTC Vive Business Edition VR systems through virtual machines. It isn’t designed to be a shipping product, just a demo for NVIDIA’s GPU Technology Conference that was developed by their engineers, but that should get the attention of this trade show’s attendees, who are mostly enterprise-focused.

nvidia-2017-fouruservrserver.png

For context, this system has roughly equivalent GPU horsepower to four Titan Xps, albeit with twice the RAM and slightly different clocks; there’s plenty of power per headset to harness. Still, running this level of high-performance application on a virtual machine could be useful in a variety of business applications, from architectural visualization to, as NVIDIA notes, amusement parks.

Given that it’s just a proof-of-concept demo, you’ll need to build it yourself to get one. They didn’t mention using any special software, though.

Source: NVIDIA

Move Over Nintendo Power GLove!

Subject: General Tech | March 29, 2017 - 09:04 PM |
Tagged: CaptoGlove, AR, VR, gaming, controller, bluetooth 4.0, BTLE 4.0, glove

There’s a new sheriff in town!  The jauntily named “CaptoGlove” promises to be a true game and VR controller in a handy glove.  Originally developed some five years ago by an Italian air force pilot for his recovering father, he has continued development of the unit so it is actually a useful game controller with a precise 3D space positioning system.  Codeveloped with the Reusch group in Italy, the CaptoGlove looks to be a pretty polished piece of gaming equipment useful in a wide variety of applications.

The glove features 10 degrees of freedom and a variety of potential actuations.  The glove caries about 10 hours of charge and can be quickly recharged.  It features Bluetooth Low Energy 4.0 connectivity.  It is essentially plug and play and the user can assign functions to the different fingers.

capto_01.png

It is a somewhat stylish looking product, which is not surprising given that Reusch has been making sporting gloves for some 80 years.  The material looks robust and should last a long, long time.  There are no details about replacing the battery, in fact many of the specifications about the glove are still unknown.  It does look to be a pretty dextrous implementation that supersedes products coming before it.

This glove is on Kickstarter and they have almost achieved their goal in the past 6 days.  A single glove will be $160 through the Kickstarter and a pair will run $299.  The highest level includes two extra sensors that allow even more precision with gaming and VR/AR, but that comes at a steep $599.

capto_02.png

The gloves have been tested with all kinds of games and functionality is good.  The videos that CaptoGlove show off have decent performance and accuracy in many titles.  Currently there is no force feedback enabled nor announced.  This is not to say that it won’t show up in the future, but this first generation consumer product still has plenty of functionality to keep people interested.

AR/VR applications show the most promise for CaptoGlove.  It has been tested with all of the major projects out there and seems to work fine.  I will be very curious how well it works in applications like Tilt Brush!  If eventually they make a haptic version of the glove, it could be a killer application for it.

The Kickstart continues for the next 25 days and there are still many interesting bundles to be had.

Dubai Future Accelerator Program Backs zSpace

Subject: General Tech | March 28, 2017 - 09:54 PM |
Tagged: zspace, VR, AR

A few weeks ago, we posted about an education company that joined the Khronos Group’s OpenXR Working Group for VR and AR APIs. As I mentioned at the time, I have a personal interest in education technologies, due in part to my background before joining PC Perspective. While the education field is in need of more than just technology, companies like zSpace are building infrastructure to deliver information in new and more varied ways, which will hopefully reach more students (and reach the rest more deeply).

As for the news: after the previous post, zSpace followed up to let us know that they’ve been accepted into the Dubai Future Accelerators (DFA) program. This is a fairly large (hundreds of millions of dollars, USD) investment fund that primarily focuses on their amount of innovation. The fund has a handful of “challenge” areas, such as health and water / electricity, that are considered for the “public good” and thus eligible. I’m guessing zSpace qualified under “Knowledge and Human Development Authority” but their press release doesn’t elaborate.

Previously accepted companies, according to Forbes, are Honeywell and Hyperloop.

I'm not sure how much of our audience is focused in the education / IT sector, so let us know in the comments if you found this follow-up relevant to you. (PC Perspective allows anonymous comments, so you don't have to jump through too many hoops to leave your opinion.)

Source: zSpace