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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.

Valve Reportedly Indifferent to Fate of Virtual Reality Tech

It seems Valve is far from concerned about rumors of an underwhelming Virtual Reality headset market. In a recent interview with the head of the game studio, Gabe Newell said his company was still "optimistic" in regards to VR's present state of affairs, and that it's "going in a way that's consistent with our expectations." He also added that Valve was "pretty comfortable with the idea that it will turn out to be a complete failure."

VR Tech sales have come under scrutiny due, in part, to lack of information. Neither Valve nor Oculus' respective marketplaces have produced sales data, leaving speculation to run rampant. To further fuel the fire, leaked figures from late last year suggest only 140,000 HTC Vive headsets had been sold, below market expectations for what is supposed to be the next "big thing."

2017's Weak VR/AR Demand May Burst VR Investment Bubble

Many research firms' numbers have shown that VR product sales in 2016 have been weaker than originally expected due to both high product costs and lack of content. No-one has yet seen VR's killer app, after all, and I know I'd love to see another Halo-like product to drive awareness on the VR platforms like it did on the original Xbox.

All of the above lead towards Google's Daydream View, HTC's Vive, Oculus Rift and Samsung Electronics' Gear VR having all achieved sales that are not even close to previously-set market expectations, with even the current mainstream poster-boy for VR, Sony's PSVR, showing adoption numbers that are as lowly as low can be. Even in their home-field, Japan, a country known for being filled with tech-savvy and tech-crazed customers, only 0.7% of the existing PS4 and PS4 Pro user-base has made the jump for a VR headset.

Microsoft XBOX Scorpio SoC Powered by "Polaris" and "Zen"

It looks like Microsoft will overpower Sony in the next round of the console wars, with a more powerful SoC on paper. The new XBOX "Scorpio" 4K Ultra HD game console will feature a custom-design SoC by AMD, which will combine not just a GPU based on the "Polaris" architecture, but also a CPU based on the "Zen" microarchitecture. This is significant because it sees a departure from using 8 smaller "Jaguar" CPU cores, and upshifts to stronger "Zen" ones. The chip could be built on the 14 nm process.

The SoC powering the XBOX Scorpio could feature a CPU component with eight "Zen" CPU cores, with SMT enabling 16 logical CPUs, and a "Polaris" GPU with 6 TFLOP/s of compute power. The combined compute power is expected to be close to 10 TFLOP/s. The Radeon RX 480, for instance features 5.84 TFLOP/s of power at its given clock speed. The CPU and GPU will likely share a common memory interface, belting out a memory bandwidth of 320 GB/s. The silicon muscle of this console should power 4K Ultra HD, 1080p @ 60 Hz HDR, and "good VR" solutions such as the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive. Games for the console could leverage DirectX 12.

FSP Dagger SFX Power Supply Pictured Up Close

Here are some of the first pictures of an FSP Dagger series modular power supply in the SFX form-factor. The company is readying 500W and 600W models, and displayed the 500W model. The company believes that the 500W model has enough juice to power a high-end VR-Ready machine driven by a GeForce GTX 980 Ti graphics card, and had an HTC Vive and SteamVR enabled machine set up to demonstrate that. The Dagger series features 80 Plus Gold efficiency, DC-to-DC switching, 100% Japan-made capacitors, and fully modular cabling with flat cables.

AMD Releases Radeon Software Crimson Edition 16.4.1

AMD released its latest version of the Radeon Software Crimson Edition drivers. Version 16.4.1 comes with optimization for "Quantum Break," with up to 35 percent higher performance seen a machine running the Radeon R9 Fury X, compared to the previous 16.3.2 drivers. It also provides software support for the two hottest VR headsets - Oculus Rift and HTC Vive. The drivers also address a bug seen on "Hitman" (2016), which cases the game to flicker when shadow quality is bumped up to "high," in DirectX 11 mode. Most importantly, the drivers fix a frame-rate capping issues noticed on some DirectX 12 applications.
DOWNLOAD: AMD Radeon Software Crimson Edition 16.4.1 for Windows 10/8.1/7 64-bit | Windows 10/8.1/7 32-bit

HP and NVIDIA Announce VR-Ready Professional Workstations

HP Inc. (NYSE: HPQ) today announced it is collaborating with NVIDIA to deliver workstations for 3D content creators, media professionals, game and application developers, and others to create visually engaging and immersive virtual reality experiences. New HP Z Workstation configurations are NVIDIA VR Ready systems, equipped with NVIDIA Quadro professional GPUs. The new configurations provide the performance necessary for content creators to deliver a seamless and accurate VR experience. Each configuration is tested with optional HTC Vive head mounted displays to ensure a smooth path to the creation of inspiring, immersive content. The companies announced the systems at NVIDIA's GPU Technology Conference, running April 4-7 at the San Jose Convention Center. The ultimate content creation configuration features dual NVIDIA Quadro M6000 24GB cards with availability planned this quarter.

"We are embarking on a new frontier that will change how content producers and artists develop the most immersive, visually stimulating content available," said Jeff Wood, vice president, Worldwide Product Management, Workstations and Thin Clients, HP Inc. "HP Z desktop workstations with NVIDIA graphics are the ideal combination for this new content creation era."

Dell Announces VR-Ready Precision Workstations

Dell today announced new Virtual Reality-ready solutions that feature refined criteria for optimal VR experience, whether consuming or creating VR content. Dell has defined VR-ready solutions by three criteria:
  • Minimum CPU, memory, and graphics requirements to support optimal VR viewing experiences;
  • Graphics drivers that are qualified to work reliably with these solutions; and,
  • Passing performance tests conducted by Dell using test criteria based on HMD (head-mounted display) suppliers, ISVs or 3rd party benchmarks where available.
Working closely with its hardware and software partners, Dell is formalizing its commitment to the future of VR by delivering solutions that are optimized for VR consumption and creation alongside ISV applications for professional customers.
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