Over in the United States the biggest tech reveal show in the world is running and we are all following it closely to see what new and interesting products are announced.
In the office we were curious to see what HTC had in store for us this year. Last year they showed off the Deluxe Audio Strap which was a new way to wear the headset, and the Vive Tracker ‐ a "puck" to attach to other devices to allow them to be integrated into a VR experience. We grabbed a Deluxe Audio Strap for our Vive and immediately noticed the difference and improvement in balance and comfort over the standard headset.
This year they have announced their much-rumoured new headset, the Vive Pro. You can immediately see further improvements over the Deluxe Audio Strap. Sporting a similar speaker and dial setup, we are eager to see what kind of adjustments can be made using the buttons underneath. Watching the video, it appears to be used to control the viewing distance of the screens while still allowing for the current dial to tweak the distance between the eyes. This should allow for more finely grained adjustment and clarity when viewing.
Outside of the comfort and usability and into the hardware, they have increased the screen resolution to 1400x1600 per eye, up from 1080x1200. This follows the trend that's been happening with VR headsets from the early Oculus Rift prototypes, where each new generation supports an improved resolution. While visually impressive, you can still see individual pixels in the current generation Vive and Oculus Rift headsets - the increased resolution of the Vive Pro will definitely reduce this and improve user experience.
The dual cameras on the front have kicked off some robust debate in the office. While there is definitely consensus that dual cameras would enable seeing into the real world easier with depth perception, this would also enable using the Vive Pro to be used in an Augmented Reality or Mixed Reality space. They mention the dual cameras are to "empower developer creativity" so perhaps they are waiting to see what creative uses developers find for them. This follows their strategy with the Vive Tracker last year, and they displayed the tracker being by third parties on all kinds of devices, most excitably gloves. While I'm sure the dual cameras will improve the zone detection and visibility features of the current single-camera setup on the current Vive, the real use will definitely come after developers have had some time to play with the new headset and tease out the possibilities.
The Vive Wireless adaptor also was unveiled. We've seen TPCast release their wireless adapter which was met with excitement and positivity. So what can HTC do with their own product? The reveal has been limited beyond images of the device, so we are all eager to see how well the Vive Wireless adapter sits on your head and how comfortable it all is.
One thing I think will be an underrated winner for both the new headset and the wireless is the fact they are backwards compatible. We've already noticed they're still using the same controllers but what's not immediately clear is that if you only want to get the new headset or wireless adapter you can – they both work interchangeably with the pre‐existing hardware. This is a huge winner to be honest – this will allow early adopters to choose if and when to upgrade, without having to replace all their existing hardware.
Overall, we are excited by what we've seen so far, and will be following the updated from CES2018 not only for the Vive but many other exciting technologies.
In the mean time we'll be working out a way to convince Steve and Jeff they "need" the new Vive Pro and Wireless for the office...