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HTC's Next VR Product, the Vive Cosmos, to be Available for $699

HTC has invested heavily into its VR place in the market, with the company being one of the most prolific in both exploring the market (that's till a relative niche) and developing improvements on their products. The new Vive Cosmos VR headset is another take on the VR world, one with modularity in mind and set with better technical specification than the original Vive - while undercutting the Vive Pro by $200, down to $699.

The Vive Cosmos features a higher 2880 x 1700p combined lens resolution (90Hz refresh rate), up from the original Vive's 2160 x 1200p. Usability improvements include the faceplate, which is now of a flip-up design that keeps the headset resting on your head when you need to actually take a look at the world around you (or your pet, or your staring significant other and the cold food that lays on the table by now).

Valve Officially Launches the Valve Index VR HMD, Full Kit Preorder Up for $999

We knew this was coming, given Valve's own teaser confirmation from March, and then a faux pas that resulted in an incomplete Steam store page ending up public for a short time. Valve had promised more details would come in May, and here we are with a lot of information available about the Valve Index headset, the controllers, the base stations, as well as retail pricing + availability.

Name aside, the Valve Index specs that leaked before end up holding true with the retail product. The headset uses dual 1440x1600 RGB LCDs which Valve claims helps provide 50% more subpixels relative to an OLED display. This in turn should result in higher effective sharpness for the same rendering horsepower, and is further accentuated via a 3x better fill factor to mitigate the dreaded screen-door effect. The headset runs at 120 Hz with full backwards compatibility to 90 Hz to work with VR titles built around that specification and, more interestingly, also supports an experimental 144 Hz mode. PC gamers have long known the benefits of higher framerates, and this is especially valid with VR, but time will tell how the rest of the ecosystem works around this. Equally important to VR gaming is the illumination period, which allows on-screen imagery to remain sharp while you are in motion just as well as when at rest. Valve claims up to a 5x reduction here, with a rated illumination period of 0.33 to 0.53 ms depending on the real time framerate. More to see past the break, so be sure to do so if this interests you!

Intel, AMD, and HTC Partner to Resolve Vive Wireless Adapter Compatibility Issue with Ryzen Processors

The headline of this post makes it seem a touch more innocuous than the story may lead to, at least if you believe the rumor mills abound. There has been an ongoing issue with AMD systems using Ryzen CPUs and the HTC Vive wireless adapter (powered by Intel WiGig) to where the systems have frozen or even had a BSOD. HTC acknowledged this as early as Nov, 2018, noting that they have seen this with a subset of Ryzen-based motherboards when the PCIe wireless adapter is installed and running. It took until last week to get a solution of sorts, and unfortunately reports from users indicate this is not a true fix for everyone.

The hotfix update 1.20190410.0 was made available April 25 to attempt to combat this issue, which was garnering a lot of attention in the VR-community on whether there was more Intel could be doing to help AMD customers. This hotfix update is available automatically once an end user with the Vive wireless adapter checks for an update, and HTC acknowledge that they continue to test this, as well as partner with Intel and AMD to help resolve this once and for all. In the meantime, users report mixed success to date, including some we know personally as well, and it remains a thorn in the side of wireless VR to get to the PC successfully.

Valve Index VR HMD Details Leak Via Premature Store Page Release, Ships June 2019

When we first covered Valve's own teaser about their first-party VR hardware ecosystem under the Valve Index moniker, we were not expecting to hear much more until May. Thanks to an error on their part, product pages for the headset, base stands, and controllers were all published prematurely on Steam for a few hours yesterday, and that was enough time for all the information to be saved online by others. The product pages were not complete, and lacked details that we expect to get sooner than later, but Valve has since confirmed that all information inadvertently leaked are accurate and we now more about the retail package now.

To begin with, May 1 is targeted as the official announcement date which will also bring with it pre-order options for those going this route in PC VR. The complete package will contain the headset itself with integrated headphones, of which we have a better render available now as seen below, a tether cable using DisplayPort 1.2 and USB 3.1 Gen 1 connections (and not the VirtualLink standard we were hoping to see), a region-specific power adapter and plug(s), and two face gaskets (narrow and wide). Interestingly the now-renamed Index Controllers are not included and are an optional, separate purchase. This is also the case with the Index base stations, which all leads us to assume that existing HTC Vive controllers and base stations will be compatible with the headset, or there will be another, more complete package to choose from. No pricing information available yet, and Valve says they are still finalizing this as well as actual shipping detail- with an aim to hit it in June.

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.

Oculus Announces the Rift S Headset for $399, Developed in Partnership With Lenovo

Oculus today announced an improvement to their original Rift headset, the Oculus Rift S. The new headset from oculus builds upon advances in their view of a VR experience, as well as from learnings acquired through the development of the original Rift, the smartphone-only Oculus Go, and the standalone Oculus Quest, to deliver the new, ultimate VR experience in the Oculus field.

The Oculus S features improved panels with a 2560x1440 resolution (just like the Oculus GO), offering 40% more pixels and improving the pixel subsystem with groupings of three instead of two. It also features Oculus Quest's Inside-Out tracking capabilities, with five cameras instead of the Quests' four, alongside redesigned controllers.

Microsoft Unveils HoloLens 2 Mixed Reality Headset

Since the release of HoloLens in 2016 we have seen mixed reality transform the way work gets done. We have unlocked super-powers for hundreds of thousands of people who go to work every day. From construction sites to factory floors, from operating rooms to classrooms, HoloLens is changing how we work, learn, communicate and get things done.

We are entering a new era of computing, one in which the digital world goes beyond two-dimensional screens and enters the three-dimensional world. This new collaborative computing era will empower us all to achieve more, break boundaries and work together with greater ease and immediacy in 3D. Today, we are proud to introduce the world to Microsoft HoloLens 2. Our customers asked us to focus on three key areas to make HoloLens even better. They wanted HoloLens 2 to be even more immersive and more comfortable, and to accelerate the time-to-value.

GIGABYTE Announces its Radeon VII Graphics Card

GIGABYTE, the world's leading premium gaming hardware manufacturer, today announced the launch of Radeon VII HBM2 16G, the latest Radeon VII graphics cards built upon the world's first 7nm gaming GPU. Based on the enhanced second-generation AMD 'Vega' architecture, Radeon VII is equipped with 3840 stream processors and 16GB of ultra-fast HBM2 memory (second-generation High-Bandwidth Memory). It is designed to deliver exceptional performance and amazing experiences for the latest AAA, e-sports and Virtual Reality (VR) titles, demanding 3D rendering and video editing applications, and next-generation compute workloads.

According to the AMD official website, the Radeon VII graphics card enables high-performance gaming and ultra-high quality visuals. Ground-breaking 1 TB/s memory bandwidth and a 4,096-bit memory interface paves the way for ultra-high resolution textures, hyper-realistic settings and life-like characters. With the high speeds of today's graphics cards, framerates often exceed the monitor refresh rate, causing stuttering and tearing.

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.

2018 Was the Year of VR Headsets - Except it Wasn't, According to Steam Hardware Survey

Steam, being the most widely used games platform for the PC ecosystem, has proven weight on current hardware employed by gamers. While not wholly representative, let's just say it caters to enough of the PC gaming population that we can infer some broad strokes of the current state of the market. And for all the hailing for a newcoming of VR in 2018, it would seem that happened, with a doubling of the attachment rate for VR headsets on Steam's hardware surveys. If we're only speaking relatively, that is.

More interesting and important than the "doubling" in VR headset attachment rate to Steam's user's is the fact that this only increased said attachment rate to around 0.8% of Steam's user base. Of these 0.8%, 0.37% of Steam users who took part in the December survey carry an Oculus Rift, with HTC Vive close behind at 0.33%. The overall increase in usage for each of these headsets was 85% and 65% throughout 2018, respectively - still definitely a far cry from the kind of market penetration that was expected of this latest generation of VR. As for Windows Mixed Reality products? They make-up 0.07% of the Steam survey's results.

SteamVR's Motion Smoothing Exits Beta, Enabled Now By Default on Windows 10 PCs With NVIDIA GPUs

A few weeks ago Valve developers announced a new technology called Motion Smoothing that would enable low-end GPUs to support VR games without problems. The system "looks at the last two delivered frames, estimates motion and animation, and extrapolates a new frame. Synthesizing new frames keeps the current application at full framerate, advances motion forward, and avoids judder".

Motion Smoothing has been available in Beta for some time, but the test phase has come to an end and it seems the technology is ready to enter the final, stable stage. You'll still need an HTC VIVE or HTC VIVE Pro headset -Oculus Rift and Windows Mixed Reality headset have their own display drivers with other tricks to sustain frame rates-, and the lack of AMD GPU support is somewhat disappointing, but hopefully Valve will fix this in future iterations of this technology.

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.

MSI GeForce RTX 2070 AERO ITX Makes Its Debut

MSI's most recent addition to their NVIDIA GeForce based line up has appeared. The newly minted RTX 2070 AERO ITX is as you may have guessed a graphics card that targets the mini-ITX market. It is currently the smallest RTX series graphics card to be spotted thus far, with it being perfect for this form factor as it lacks a few features seen on the higher end RTX 2080 and 2080 Ti that add complexity. Essentially the lack of NVlink on all RTX 2070 offerings allows for a simpler PCB design that is better suited for this design. There is also the fact anyone wanting SLI would not be looking at ITX focused cards anyway.

The other feature removed likely for cost savings is the VirtualLink (USB-C) connector that delivers power, video, and data for virtual reality headsets. While not entirely a deal breaker it still makes using it for a small form factor VR system a bit more difficult going forward. That said, considering the slow adoption of VR its removal is still a relatively safe bet for MSI for now. Taking a closer look at the packaging shows no indication of a pre-applied overclock, meaning MSI's RTX 2070 AERO ITX should come with NVIDIA reference clock speeds of 1410 MHz base / 1620 MHz boost on the core. The 8 GB of GDDR6 memory should have clocks of 1750 MHz (14000 MHz effective). As for the graphics card's TDP, it should also keep to the reference specification of 175-watts. Currently, pricing and availability are still unknown.

NVIDIA Announces Quadro RTX 4000 Graphics Card

NVIDIA today introduced the Quadro RTX 4000 graphics card - the company's first midrange professional GPU powered by the NVIDIA Turing architecture and the NVIDIA RTX platform. Unveiled at the annual Autodesk University Conference in Las Vegas, the Quadro RTX 4000 puts real-time ray tracing within reach of a wider range of developers, designers and artists worldwide.

Professionals from the manufacturing, architecture, engineering and media creation industries witnessed a seismic shift in computer graphics with the launch of Turing in August. The field's greatest leap since the invention of the CUDA GPU in 2006, Turing features new RT Cores to accelerate ray tracing and next-gen Tensor Cores for AI inferencing which, together for the first time, make real-time ray tracing possible.

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.

ZOTAC Announces VR GO 2.0 Backpack PC

ZOTAC Technology, a global manufacturer of innovation, is excited to officially announce the VR GO 2.0, the world's first VR Backpack PC refreshed from the ground up. The VR GO 2.0 improves the untethered VR experience with high-end performance repackaged into a more compact, ergonomic chassis.

UNLEASH NEW REALITY
The VR GO 2.0 is designed for unlocking the potential of VR across industries and businesses in entertainment, product development, medical practice, design, education, customer service, eSports, and much more. Integrating mobility and high-performance hardware, the revamped backpack solution empowers life-like immersion with zero compromises to latency and reduction in visual quality with today's leading VR headsets.

The system comes with the powerful and efficient NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1070 graphics with 8GB memory while an Intel Core i7 processor and 16GB DDR4 memory provides the horsepower and bandwidth to sail through intensive tasks, delivering an ultra-smooth experience. The VR GO 2.0 is further equipped with centralized ports and top mounted I/O ports dedicated for easy VR HMD connectivity.

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.

Brendan Iribe Oculus VR Co-Founder Leaves Company

Brendan Iribe, a co-founder of Oculus VR, has announced that he will be leaving the company today in a Facebook post. Having been with the company since its inception in July of 2012, he is now moving on after in his own words "six incredible years." Having been a part of the initial VR push with the Oculus Rift, he has left an indelible mark on an industry that is still growing into its own today.

Calling his tenure at Oculus and Facebook a "transformative experience" Iribe was thankful to the people around him including his team that has been a part of his journey thus far. However, after 20 years he considers now a good time to take a break and "to recharge, reflect and be creative." Even so, it will be interesting to see what he does next, considering he has already co-founded a previous company, Scaleform that was bought by Autodesk in 2011 and then worked for Gaikai before the Sony acquisition in 2012. With a track record in tech that spans multiple industries, it likely won't be long before Iribe is working on the next big thing.

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.

Motion Smoothing in SteamVR Will Make Low-End GPUs Ready to Support VR Games

Developers at SteamVR have announced a new feature called Motion Smoothing that will enable "more players on more PCs to play high-fidelity VR games and experiences". This technique works in a similar way to what it does on flat screen TVs. In this case, Motion Smoothing interpolates between two existing frames and creates a new in-between frame that smooths the experience and increases framerate. That adds latency, which is not a good idea in VR experiences, and that's precisely what's different at SteamVR implementation.

With that feature enable, SteamVR detects when an application is going to drop frames. If that happens, "it looks at the last two delivered frames, estimates motion and animation, and extrapolates a new frame. Synthesizing new frames keeps the current application at full framerate, advances motion forward, and avoids judder". This allows the user to enjoy full framerate while the performance requirements decrease. That way, even users with graphics card not specially powerful can still enjoy VR experiences without problems.

HaptX Announces Development Kit Release for Its Haptic Feedback VR Gloves

HaptX today announced that they're opening availability of development kits for their HaptX haptic feedback VR Gloves. The development kits include a pair of HaptX gloves - each featuring 130 tactile actuators that provide realistic touch across the hand and fingertips, with full tactile displacement of objects, size, and weight feedback. Built with HaptX's patented microfluidic technology, HaptX Gloves also deliver powerful force feedback and industry-leading motion tracking with sub-millimeter precision.

The HaptX gloves and accompanying software are already supported in unity and Unreal Engine 4 - two of the most widespread games development engines - which should allow for increased chances of market integration towards VR experiences. Bringing the physical to the visual is the motto here, and there's a world of potential to be achieved.

A New Standalone VR Headset in Town: Oculus Quest Will Cost $399, Arrives In Spring 2019

Standalones headsets are the new flavor of the VR town this side of 2018. They bring a sorely needed dimension to this segment, allowing users to enjoy some VR experiences that are near what the Oculus Rift or HTC Vive offer, but with a much more palatable price and format. The ability to not be tethered also means being able to experience room-scale VR without having your lizard brain worry about tripping on cables either. This brings us to the Oculus Quest that was launched this week at the Oculus Connect 5 developer conference, just a couple of years after the debut of Project Santa Cruz that has finally culminated in a retail product.

The new wireless, standalone headset goes beyond what Oculus Go went to when announced earlier this year. Based on the Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 (Oculus Go was based on a Snapdragon 821) and offering 64 GB of integrated storage, the Oculus Quest offers 1600x1440 resolution per eye and has full six degrees of freedom (6DOF) support versus the three degrees on the Oculus Go. The headset will be available in spring of next year for $399, and more details can be seen past the break.

HTC Now Shipping the Vive Wireless Adapter for $299

The promise of cordless, wireless, true freedom-of-movement VR gaming has been somewhat of an elusive unicorn, but HTC have finally taken one of the larger steps in that quest. After more than a year showing of the untethering wireless tech for the Vive headset, HTC has now begun shipping of the add-on. It's going for $299 - whether or not that price is justified in the current state of VR, and adding to the base headset's pricing, is something that is reserved for each prospective buyers' judgment. There are two months of Viveport added in the mix, though - that does virtually lower the entry pricing.

The adapter has a range of 6 meters, which should be enough for freedom-defining VR experiences - up to two hours in length at a time, of course. The data stream has been developed around Intel's WiGig tech, alongside DisplayLink's IP. Vive Pro owners, however, are being left in the cold already, in a move that will surely bring headaches to HTC - takers of the top-tier headset will have to splurge an additional $60 for a compatibility enabler for the new Vive Wireless Adapter. Ouch?

Mozilla Releases Firefox Reality- A Web Browser Dedicated for Virtual Reality

The name of the product may sound ironic given the intended application, but the Mozilla Firefox Reality web browser is the first of its kind to be built dedicated to virtual reality (and also augmented-, and mixed-reality for that matter) portals. Mozilla had originally announced earlier this year this was in the making, and today we see availability at the usual VR suspects- Viveport, Oculus, and Daydream app stores. The Mixed Reality Team at Mozilla felt that VR took advantage of the so-called 3D immersive web, and that using existing 2D-centric browsers meant not being able to, in their words, "enjoy it".

This meant that Mozilla built Firefox Reality with a new approach to navigation, user input, searches and more. Features built into the browser include searching with one's voice, for example, taking advantage of microphones either integrated in headsets or as part of audio peripherals used in conjunction. Mozilla says they spent thousands of hours testing and collecting feedback from users to get to the release version of the browser, and this comes also in the form of a new home screen that adds interactive, immersive experiences right from the get go as seen below. More to follow past the break.

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.
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