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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."

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.

Sources: Vive.com, via AnandTech

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.

Source: Tom's Hardware

Oculus VR Slashes the Price of Oculus Rift Down to $399

Oculus VR announced that its pioneering Oculus Rift VR HMD has finally emerged from its early-adopter pricing, and will be sold at USD $399 a piece, going forward. The company had been facing increased competition in HMDs from the likes of the HTC Vive, and tech majors Microsoft announcing their VR/AR standards. Each $399 Rift bundle comes with Touch controllers, sensors, and six free apps that give you hours of entertainment including Epic's arcade shooter, Robo Recall, and our creative tools, Medium and Quill. Oculus VR, throughout its press-release, emphasized that the $399 price isn't a limited-period offer, and that the pricing is "permanent."

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."

ASUS Announces ROG Zenith Extreme, ROG Strix X399-E, Prime X399-A X399 Mobos

There are two kinds of desktop CPU platforms. The mainstream tier runs from two cores up to eight, and it's great for gaming and general use. Its high-end sibling takes everything up a level with more cores, more memory channels, and more bandwidth for graphics and storage. A considerable upgrade in every regard, this high-end desktop platform appeals to power users, content creators, and prosumers who want to blur the line between desktop and workstation. AMD's Threadripper CPU is the latest addition to the desktop's heavyweight division, and it walks into the ring with an entourage of SocketTR4 motherboards in tow. This guide explains the ASUS and ROG family to help you pick the best X399 motherboard for your high-end desktop or gaming PC.

All of our X399 boards share core DNA that includes one-touch overclocking, refined cooling control, and improved RGB lighting. Yet they each have their own distinct flavor as well. The ROG Zenith Extreme brings Threadripper into the world of premium dream PCs with provisions for custom liquid cooling and 10G networking. With the Strix X399-E Gaming, hardcore gamers can build stylish rigs with power to spare for high-quality streaming. And then there's the Prime X399-A and its well-rounded foundation channeling the professional side of the platform's prodigious power. Which X399 motherboard should you buy for your build? Let's find out.

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.

Source: Techradar

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.)

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.

Google Dominates VR Headsets Market: Strategy Analytics

2016 saw the launch of multiple new VR platforms vying for consumer, developer and enterprise attention. The Strategy Analytics report "VR Headset Platform Market Share Year End 2016" estimates that over 30 million VR headsets shipped, split between 6 major competing VR platforms in an increasingly fragmented landscape.

David MacQueen, Executive Director of Strategy Analytics' Virtual Reality Ecosystem research program, noted, "2016 certainly was a busy year in VR. Appearing alongside Google Cardboard were new platforms Google Daydream, Samsung Gear VR, Oculus Rift, PlayStation VR and SteamVR, currently served by the HTC Vive device, although more vendors will join this platform in 2017."

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."

Unigine Announces the Superposition Benchmark - Coming Soon

Unigine has announced the impending release of a new benchmark suite, supposedly to be released at the end of 2016 (well, that ship has sailed, but the benchmark Is still coming). It features an interactive VR experience with support for Oculus Rift and HTC Vive. The description, such as it is, reads as so:

"A lone professor performs dangerous experiments in an abandoned classroom, day in and day out. Obsessed with inventions and discoveries beyond the wildest dreams, he strives to prove his ideas.

Once you come to this place in the early morning, you would not meet him there. The eerie thing is a loud bang from the laboratory heard a few moments ago. What was that? You have the only chance to cast some light upon this incident by going deeply into the matter of quantum theory: thorough visual inspection of professor's records and instruments will help to lift the veil on the mystery."

You can check a 4K teaser of the benchmark, after the break.

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.

ZOTAC VR Go Backpack With Core i7 6700T and GTX 1070 Priced: $1999

After announcing earlier this week the impending release of their VR Go backpack, ZOTAC has now made pricing details available: $1999 will net you the ability to strap a PC to your body so you can freely engage with enemies or friends alike in VR environments.

The ZOTAC VR GO can work autonomously for up to two hours, feeding on two Li-ion batteries rated at 95Wh (6600mAh). The batteries can be hot-swapped and charged separately, featuring a DC12V-out for powering the HTC Vive or Oculus Rift. When not in use as a backpack to play virtual reality games, the VR GO can be used like a normal desktop computer: its form-factor allows it to be placed on a desk either vertically or horizontally and all the ports will remain accessible. It isn't very heavy, either, though at 4.95 kilograms, your mileage may vary.
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