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Valve Confirms First-Party VR Headset Titled Valve Index, Launches May 2019

PAX East 2019 brought with it some exciting news, and the world of virtual reality no doubt sees this news as the biggest in quite some time. Valve has finally made good on their promises from yesteryear, bringing in personnel to work on both the hardware and software side of the VR market. We first saw a hint of this via a prototype VR HMD late last year, with leaked specs confirming it was Valve's own design going beyond the established competition at the time from HTC Vive and Oculus. Since then, the Vive Pro has come out with an even higher-end version using eye-tracking to target prosumers initially, and also showcasing foveated rendering that will no doubt herald VR getting more mainstream and allowing for a higher graphical fidelity as well.

The so-called Valve Index has been listed on Steam now, with no other information to see than from the image below. We know it is coming in a couple of months, perhaps even during Computex although it is unlikely. It certainly looks similar to the prototype HMD, and presumably retains the 135° field-of-view and 2,880 x 1,600 total resolution. No mention of the Steam Knuckles controller here, but that is no surprise for a teaser. What we can tell is the headset has a physical slider, presumably to assist with pupillary distance calibration, as well as fairly large lenses that extend outwards which may assist with IR-based tracking. There is no mention of HTC anywhere here, and it would be right up Valve's alley to introduce this at a relatively affordable price point to then make up on software and distribution (savings via Steam) instead. Perhaps we will see the long-rumored Half Life VR as a launch title? Time will tell, and this may well be the big boost to gaming VR that is sorely needed.

HTC Vive Pro Eye: Hands On with Hardware and Software

The Vive Cosmos was not the only major announcement coming out of HTC's Vive business unit at CES this year. While that has massive mainstream appeal, the company was quick to let us know that it was still to early to comment further than what has already been covered in the aforelinked news post. Instead, they invited us to their suite to take a closer look at the Vive Pro Eye- one of the few things that really stood out for us at the trade show.

The Vive Pro Eye is, as the name would suggest, a new SKU with integrated eye tracking in the Vive Pro HMD. Working together with Tobii, the Vive Pro Eye allows for a more natural control mechanism within VR via eye controls, which in turn means a revamped menu navigation system is possible. This allows for increased accessibility to end users with disability, more optimization on VR performance, and detailed analysis of VR experiences for both the client and the businesses alike. Read past the break for a breakdown of our experience with the Vive Pro Eye, and the various demos on hand to showcase the feature.

HTC Announces the Vive Cosmos Stand-Alone(ish) VR Headset at CES 2019

The pace of innovation can't stand still, and if there's one space that needs cost-cutting and new product injection to increase its install base is the VR ecosystem. HTC took to CES 2019 to reveal their new take on the VR, a semi-portable VR headset that has been designed not only for room-scale VR, but also for home use and, cryptically, on-the-go (holy moly, the headset flips up towards your forehead!).

Apparently, the Cosmos will have the ability to be powered by your smartphone and perhaps other devices - not all that surprising when you think of the RAM and computing power that it holds right in the palm of your hands (I'll say. My smartphone is a much better performer than my work PC...). And HTC says the Cosmos will be their sharpest VR headset ever - which should mean that it should feature higher resolution than the Vive Pro's 2880×1600 (1440×1600 per eye) display. A smartphone would likely only be able to power some sort of augmented reality graphics on that resolution, though - but I might be wrong.

HTC and McLaren Launch Special Edition VR Headset With New Racing Sim

After forming a partnership back in May of this year, HTC and McLaren are now seeing their cooperation pay off with the launch of a Limited-Edition HTC VIVE Pro headset ahead of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix that takes place this weekend. The overall goal for this launch is to give fans a "unique experience that can't be had watching on television" according to Alvin Wang Graylin, HTC's China president. The racing simulation released with the headset is rFactor 2 Mclaren Edition, which is based on rFactor 2 and was produced by Studio 397. This particular version allows users to race classic cars from the British team's history. As expected it sports a full day-night cycle along with dynamically varying weather, which pairs well with the "real-road" technology that changes grip characteristics as more cars drive on the track. The most prominent new feature to be added with this release is the inclusion of mixed class road racing. The game is available now but requires a Viveport subscription.

Valve Seemingly Preparing Their Own VR Headset; Hints Point to Half Life VR Bundle

In June 2016 Valve announced 'Destinations', a Steam workshop not easy to find anymore, that allowed the end user to enter real and fictitious scenarios through the magic of virtual reality. The idea was intriguing, but the media was not completely sold and judged Valve's proposal as both "the best and the worst of VR". From all this, however, came a singular discovery: those who reverse-engineered its code discovered in it the HLVR acronym, which initiated a wide debate about the potential appearance of a Half Life VR (HLVR) version specifically developed for VR headsets.

Lending further credence to this hypothesis was Gabe Newell's announcement in February 2017 that Valve was preparing three big titles for virtual reality- two of them based on Source 2, and one of them based on Unity. More such signs appeared in the summer of 2018, and everything was pointing towards this project being indeed real, that it would likely be based on Source 2, and that it would offer a full-fledged blockbuster title that this generation of VR has been desperately seeking. We now have more data courtesy a "leaked email" to Reddit user 2flock that suggests Valve's work is apparently going beyond just VR game development, as images of a prototype device seen below confirm that Valve is also working on its own VR head-mounted display (HMD), one whose development would also be more advanced than initially suspected.

HTC Joins VirtualLink Consortium, a Single USB-C Cable is The Future for Premium VR Headsets

The VirtualLink Consortium was formed in July 2018 with some of the major VR industry players such as Oculus, AMD, NVIDIA, Valve and Microsoft as founders. HTC has joined the group, and will therefore begin to support the implementation of the VirtualLink specification, which makes it possible to connect VR headsets to the PC with just one USB-C cable. Enjoying premium virtual reality experiences has so far been cumbersome. The cables needed to keep the headset connected to the PC limit the movements, and in fact that is one of the reasons that the standalone headsets are beginning to gain interest among users.

VirtualLink cable spec is based on the Alternate Mode function of the USB Type-C standard, and allows the cables and connectors to carry non-USB signals. The VirtualLink cable can carry four high-speed DisplayPort High Bit-Rate 3 (HBD3) lanes, a single USB 3.1 data channel, and 27 watts of power for the headset's displays and sensors. Setting up and using the VR headset with this kind of cable and connector will be therefore easier and not as clunky as before.

CCP Says They Expected the VR Market to Boom Much Sooner

CCP, makers of the legendary EVE Online, made quite a substantial push for VR in the coming of age of Oculus' Rift and HTC's Vive products in the form of EVE: Valkyrie. The game was fully developed by CCP's Newcastle studio with VR systems in mind (including the PS4's), but failed to... sound off quite as much as the developer wanted it to. During last weekend's EVE Vegas FanFest, CCP CEO Hilmar Veigar Pétursson told Destructoid that the company expected VR to become bigger, faster, than it ever did, with utilization rates being way below the marketed attachment rates and sales of VR headsets.

"We expected VR to be two to three times as big as it was, period. You can't build a business on that.", said Hilmar Veigar Pétursson "If it does take off, and I mean if, we'll re-assess. The important thing is we need to see the metrics for active users of VR. A lot of people bought headsets just to try it out. How many of those people are active? We found that in terms of our data, a lot of users weren't. May of last year (2017) is when we started to figure it out. Was it a surprise? Maybe. But the picture was filling in that there would not be a way to continue with VR as heavily as we were. No regrets. It was right to stop, and it was right to start. I remain a long-term believer of VR." Perhaps things will turn around with subsequent generations of more affordable VR headsets, such as Oculus' Quest, but... It might take some time and slow iteration.

IDC - Despite Sharp Decline in VR Headset Shipments in Q2 2018, Market Outlook Remains Positive

Worldwide shipments of virtual reality (VR) headsets were down 33.7% year over year in the second quarter of 2018 (2Q18), according to the International Data Corporation (IDC) Worldwide Quarterly Augmented and Virtual Reality Headset Tracker. IDC expects this to be a temporary setback as the VR market finds its legs. The arrival of new products, such as the Oculus Go and HTC Vive Pro, and new brands, combined with the need for greater headset fidelity all point to a positive outlook for the quarters ahead.

Screenless viewers brought a lot of attention to VR in the early days as the entire market was artificially propped up by brands like Samsung, Alcatel, and Google that bundled the headsets with smartphones. However, since then, the screenless viewer category has declined substantially, shrinking from 1 million headsets in 2Q17 to 409,000 in 2Q18. This category was the largest contributor to the decline in shipments for the overall VR headset market.

HTC Announces the VIVE Pro Full Kit - Steam VR 2.0 Base Stations, Pro Controllers Included

The HTC VIVE Pro Full Kit is one for the enthusiast, with the full bundle launching with the updated Steam VR 2.0 compatible base stations for a total play area of an incredible 10m x 10m, over three times that of the original. Also included in the Full Kit is a new set of pro controllers in the iconic blue colour. The VIVE Pro headset itself features a resolution of 2880 x 1600 (an increase of 78% over the original), with a built-in deluxe audio strap and slimlined cable management.

Seagate and HTC Announce the VR Power Drive for the Vive Focus VR Headset

Seagate, a world leader in data storage solutions, and HTC VIVE, an innovation world leader in the field of smart mobile devices and virtual reality (VR), have jointly launched the SeagateⓇ VR Power Drive at the 2018 HTC New Ecosystem Conference in Shenzhen, China, helping VR device users expand their storage capacity and battery life.

Virtual reality is developing with great speed and momentum in China, and VR applications are emerging one after another in the fields of entertainment, education and healthcare, etc. According to a report jointly released by iResearch and Greenlight Insights, China will become a main VR market globally. In 2016, the VR market in China reached RMB 3.46 billion (about US$550 million). With high growth rate, the VR market in China is estimated to exceed RMB 10 billion (about US$1.6 billion) in 2018. In the next five years, the compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of the VR market could exceed 80 percent. Moreover, by 2021, China is forecast to become the largest VR market in the world, and the whole scale of the industry could reach RMB 79.02 billion (about US$ 12.64 billion), with the VR headset device market forecast to be RMB 29.75 billion (about US$4.76 billion). With the overall market for VR hardware expanding, the market of content, including VR games, VR films and television, as well as live streaming, are also growing rapidly, bringing more comprehensive entertainment experience to users.

FTC Gives Manufacturers 30 Days to Remove Warranty Void Stickers

Remember that time where the FTC announced they were cracking down on illegal, predatory warranty conditions? You know, such as those "warranty void if removed" stickers that don't really have any legal base towards their implementation - and eventual refusal of an actual warranty claim? Well, the gong has now sounded, and it will reverberate some 30 times: the amount of days the FTC has given companies to cease and desist on putting those stickers in newly shipped products.

HTC Vive Announces Price of Vive Pro HMD at $799 and Reduces Vive Price to $499

HTC Vive today announced that the HTC Vive Pro Head Mounted Display (HMD) will be available for $799 with global pre-orders starting now. The company also announced a $100 price reduction for the current Vive full kit, bringing it down to $499 across the globe. All Vive Pro HMDs purchased by June 3rd, which will begin shipping on April 5th, will come with a free six-month trial to Viveport Subscription, where consumers can choose up to 5 titles per month from the more than 400 titles available.

"With the Vive Pro we are delivering the best quality display and visual experience to the most discerning VR enthusiasts. Our goal has always been to offer the most premium VR platform available and to drive adoption for VR," said Daniel O'Brien, HTC Vive General Manager, US. "By lowering the price of the current Vive, we are making VR more accessible while expanding the potential market for developers. Whether you're a VR enthusiast or new to the platform, there's never been a better time to join the most complete VR platform available."

HTC Vive Focus VR Headset Pre-order to Open On December 12 in China

HTC Corporation, a pioneer in innovative, smart mobile and virtual reality (VR) technologies, today announced that its highly-anticipated premium standalone VR headset for the China market, the VIVE FOCUS, will be available for pre-order at 12:00 a.m. on December 12th (Beijing time) in most of China's major online stores (i.e. Vive.com, JD.com, Tmall.com) and offline sales channels (i.e. Gome, Suning). Initial customer deliveries are expected in January 2018.

"Two years ago, we delivered the first room-scale PC VR solution to the world; today, we're extremely excited to be, once again, the first to bring 6DoF 'world-scale' VR experiences in the form of the VIVE Focus to the VR market," said Alvin Wang Graylin, China Regional President of VIVE, HTC. "The combination of advanced capabilities, usability and comfort in an affordable package is unmatched in the current market. This signals the beginning of VR's entry into the mass consumer space in 2018."

Killing Floor: Incursion Brings the Horror and Gore to the HTC Vive

Tripwire Interactive, developers of the award-winning Red Orchestra and Killing Floor franchises, announced today that Killing Floor: Incursion is now available for HTC VIVE and is available for purchase on Steam for $39.99 USD. In addition to today's launch on Steam, a new downloadable content update is now available to current owners of Killing Floor: Incursion on Oculus Rift. The update highlights include a new Hardcore difficulty setting, Katana weapon, leaderboards, achievements, and the exciting new "Holdout" game mode, which finds players defending a random location in one of the game's maps against increasingly deadly hordes of Zeds in a frenetic, arcade-like action experience.

In Killing Floor: Incursion, players must take on the role of an elite Horzine Security Forces soldier as they team up with allies to fend off the horrific Zed hordes using an array of weapons including guns, blades and more. Players will be able to freely explore as they move throughout the environment, scavenging for weapons and ammo while searching for the best locations to fight the monster onslaught. Battle in diverse environments from creepy farmhouses to high-tech facilities through Horzine Security Forces missions and unlock the secrets of the Zeds' origins.

HTC Reveals Vive Focus Standalone VR Headset and Vive Wave VR Open Platform

HTC, a pioneer in innovative, smart mobile and virtual reality (VR) technologies, today held its VIVE Developer Conference 2017 (VDC2017), where it announced VIVE WAVE, a VR open platform and toolset that will open up the path to easy mobile VR content development and high-performance device optimization for third-party partners. 12 hardware partners, namely 360QIKU, Baofengmojing, Coocaa, EmdoorVR, Idealens, iQIYI, Juhaokan, Nubia, Pico, Pimax, Quanta and Thundercomm, announced their support for the integration of Vive Wave as well as the VIVEPORT VR content platform into their future products. Vive Wave is a clear step forward in bringing together the highly fragmented mobile VR market that has growth up in China the last several years. It saves tremendous efforts by allowing developers to create content for a common platform and storefront across disparate hardware vendors. Over 35 Chinese and global content developers have already built VR content optimized for Vive Wave, with 14 showing live demos at the event. Vive also unveiled the VIVE FOCUS, its highly anticipated premium standalone VR headset for the China market that is also based on the Vive Wave VR open platform.

TPCAST Wireless VR Adapter Up for Preorder at $299

TPCAST, the first to market a wireless Virtual Reality (VR) solution for Head-Mounted Display (HMD) announces the launch of its Consumer Edition Wireless VR Adapter supporting the HTC VIVE. The TPCAST adapter will be available for pre-order through the primary web and retail stores throughout the US and Canada.

The TPCAST wireless adapter is a breakthrough in the field of VR, solving one of the most significant physical obstacles - the cumbersome wiring between the PC and the headset. The wireless adapter is a small device attached to the top of the Vive HMD replacing the cables connecting the PC video and USB to the headset. The adapter provides users an immersive VR experience including full-range motion capabilities without any impact on video quality and resolution. The adapter works perfectly with graphics intensive applications and with user extreme movement, without adding delay or affecting the experience quality. The Adapter includes a battery that powers the HMD, allowing up to 5 hours of operation.

Sparc Coming Later This Month to Oculus Rift and HTC Vive

CCP Games today announced that Sparc, the energetic competitive virtual reality game currently available on PlayStationVR, is coming to Oculus Rift and HTC Vive headsets on PC on November 16th. Sparc's unique full-body experience is only possible in virtual reality, where players' VR equipment becomes their sports gear.

Players on PlayStation 4 and PCs will be able to compete against each other seamlessly. In Sparc, players connect online to compete in fast-paced and physical one-on-one gameplay, using motion controllers to throw projectiles across the court at their opponent while dodging, blocking or deflecting incoming shots.

HTC Bundle: Vive VR, GeForce GTX 1070, Fallout 4 VR for $799

HTC has launched a VR gaming bundle which aims to bring incredible value for gamers that want to dip their feet in the VR world without the hassle of buying individual components. The bundle, which includes a Vive VR room scale solution (with the headset and a pair of controllers), a Founder's Edition NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1070, and a copy of Fallout 4 VR, is being sold for $799. It's a "while supplies last" type of bundle - and unfortunately for the rest of the world, will only be available in the U.S. market.

This is an extremely interesting bundle for the price HTC is asking - the company is quoting a $999 retail value for the bundle ($599 for the Vive room scale solution, and around $400 for the GTX 1070), which amounts to $200 savings. Add to the fact that this is as plug and play a solution as it gets, and the fact that the GTX 1070 is a very competent card in VR workloads, and this really does translate as an interesting, inspired take on expanding the market for VR. A shame it's only available for U.S. residents, though. The rest of the world feels left out.

TPCast on the Brink of Launching Wireless VR Kits to US, European Market

TPCast has been hard at work on creating a usable way to untether users' VR experiences, which is arguably one of the most important steps for full immersion. I expect nothing to be more immersion-breaking than pivoting to respond to fire from your rear, and consequently getting jumbled up in wires and falling towards your thousand-dollar PC and VR equipment. As such, untethering is essential to really give users the degrees of freedom we need to fully experience virtual reality worlds. To satisfy demand for their upcoming Vive wireless upgrade kit, the company is opening up shop in Silicon Valley no less. The new office will handle marketing, sales, and customer service for North American customers.

TPCast has been selling these "untethering" kits on China for almost a year now, and have since started accepting orders for the European market in September. The company expects to launch their product in Europe come November, but final launch for the North American market is still a cloudy, unannounced subject. If you have an Oculus Rift, the company is also designing a wireless adapter for that particular headset, though there's currently no news on when that one will be available.

HTC Vive Reduces Price By $200

HTC Vive today announced a $200 price reduction for Vive, making the best VR system more accessible to the mass market, across the globe. Starting today, Vive will be available for $599. All Vive purchases come with a free trial to Viveport Subscription, where consumers can choose up to 5 titles per month to experience, and copies of many of the most popular pieces of VR content today, including Google's Tilt Brush, Everest VR, and Richie's Plank Experience.

"Our goal at Vive has always been to offer the best and most advanced VR system and drive mass market adoption for VR across the globe," said Cher Wang, Chairwoman, HTC. "We're continuing to deliver on that commitment with this new price for Vive, making VR more accessible to a broader audience and driving the entire VR industry forward. Vive's game-changing technology, best-in-class content and unmatched global partners are fulfilling the promise of VR like never before. With highly anticipated titles, and the upcoming launch of Vive Tracker, there has never been a better time to embrace Vive, and enjoy the most immersive VR experience available."

HTC to Expand Vive to Various Price Points, Updating Original Vive Headset

IN a bid to increase attractiveness in the VR ecosystem (particularly its own VR ecosystem), HTC is seemingly working on expanding its VR headset lineup beyond just the Vive headset, with other options spaced out at different price points. Lower price points are all but guaranteed, since HTC sees - and expects to continue seeing - the Vive as the top of the line VR headset in the market. Marc Metis, Global Head of Vive X at HTC Vive, told TechRadar that the company will "(...) also always try to address other market segments as well [beyond the high end] (...) Expect new offerings from us over time. We're an entrepreneurial company. Don't view us as static. We'll only enter a segment when we can offer the most immersive and considered experience. "

Mr. Metis also said that there are always innovations being applied to the current Vive inside their labs, as they try to keep up with technological advancement for what their Vive successor might be, saying that HTC will " (...) continue to evolve the current Vive with innovations." Certainly an improved Vive VR headset is great news, as technology progresses and matures, allowing for higher specs in the same power envelope. However, better than improving image resolution further, perhaps the focus should be on usability and the untethering of the VR experience, which seems to be one of the more immersion breaking faults in current-gen VR. The addition of different products at different price-points is also a result of technological development and manufacturing improvements. Perhaps before seeing new, lower performing products hitting the market, we'll see a new Vive 2 headset, displacing the current Vive to a lower price-point. That certainly would make more sense (in theory) than developing a whole new VR headset.

Bethesda's E3 Press Conference: Dishonored, Wolfenstein, Fallout 4 VR, and more

At Bethesda's E3 press conference, the company revealed a slew of new games that it had kept relatively well hidden until now. First up (and you'll forgive me for the not so random order of coverage for these), there's the upcoming Dishonored stand-alone expansion (it's been a while since we've seen one of those, uh?). Dishonored: Death of the Outsider, whose title should send your mind reeling if you know something about Dishonored lore, will follow Billie Lurk (which you might recognize from Dishonored 2) as she attempts to bring death to the Outsider on Daud's behest. She now has what seems like bionic implements in the shape of an arm and an eye, and interestingly, what would be the Outsiders' powers seem to have been substituted by a tech-based approach. Dishonored: Death of the Outsider drops on September 15th this year.

Another game showcased by the company is Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus, which once again follows B.J. Blazkowicz; this time, after the events in Wolfenstein: The New Order. Take the fight back to the Nazi regime once again, with Wolfenstein's signature graphics language and gameplay. The games' graphics have been (naturally) upgraded, and in particular the particle effects seem to have been pumped up significantly. The game drops on October 27th this year. You might even encounter another grammar Nazi in the game. Who knows...

Microsoft to Launch First-Party Titles for Its Mixed Reality HMDs?

Microsoft has been slowly building up its mixed reality endeavor, by baking in support for the platform in its latest Windows 10 updates, as well as the recent announcements of actual HMDs from hardware partners like HP and Acer. Acer's solution, their Mixed Reality HMD, will ship to developers and customers with a $400 price-tag for both the headset and a pair of 6 DoF controllers, which easily remind users of HTC's Vive and Oculus's Rift controllers. Microsoft's implementation, however, makes away with the Rift's and Vive's ouside-in trackers, only needing to be within "sight" of the sensors on the front of the HMD to which they're connected, thus making them truly world-scale (if at the expense of some sweet swordplay moves, but I digress.)

NVIDIA Showcases Multi-User VR Concept at GTC

At GTC (GPU Technology Conference) today, NVIDIA has gone on to show how much VR is in the company's cards for future expansion. After giving us a ray-tracing solution for gaming audio with their VRWorks Audio SDK, and a VR stitching solution via their 360 Video SDK, NVIDIA has now showcased a system capable of running what could be defined as a "local VR party". I would like to point out, however, that such a system may find itself of much more use to businesses, education, and the military segments than local LAN parties, though I wouldn't mind embracing the skin of a VR-driven Darth Vader.

NVIDIA's proof-of-concept system can drive four different VR headsets. It makes use of four of the company's Quadro P6000 GPUs running four virtual machines on a PC server, which are paired with four HTC Vive Business Edition headsets and HTC's Lightroom tracking system. The system appears to be tiny for such a powerful configuration, though having a system powered by four video-cards shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone at this point in time - even if such an approach is now bordering on virtual impracticality for most consumers. NVIDIA is offering a look at the design guide technical document for such a system, though, which can prove an interesting read, right here.

OSVR Gets Sensics Home Suite - Proximity Alert System, Dedicated Home Screen

One of the things keeping OSVR from becoming a de facto platform for VR is that its software stack, being open source, still hasn't received as much development as Facebook's Oculus or HTC's Vive platforms. However, Sensics, one of the players which has put its stock on the OSVR ecosystem from the beginning, is aiming to gradually change that. Its recent introduction of the Sensics Home Suite brings, in itself, some much-needed quality of life improvements for any VR platform.
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