LAS VEGAS, NV -- CES 2018 is nigh, and we’re excited for all the new tech announcements, especially in the VR and AR spaces. Among the XR companies we plan to catch up with is HTC, to see what’s next for the Vive platform. There should be several announcements of peripherals and accessories that support the Vive Tracker devices, and perhaps the company will have news about a standalone headset for markets outside of China, but what we didn’t expect to see--until Friday--is a replacement for the existing Vive headset.
The company sent out a tweet on that suggests that a new, higher-resolution Vive headset would make its debut at CES. HTC didn’t give any specific details, but it posted an illustration of a Vive headset with the words “New Year's” in blurry text and “Resolution” in clear text plastered above it.
It’s hard to say for sure what HTC’s tweet means, but it’s a pretty strong clue that the company is about to reveal a Vive headset that offers a clearer image. The change is likely a hardware refresh, which could be higher resolution panels, or a panel with a superior subpixel array, such as the RGB subpixel panels that Sony puts in the PSVR headsets. It’s also possible that HTC updated its optics design to reduce the image distortion.
HTC said in the past that it would not replace the current Vive until there were significant advancements to the platform that would justify a whole new device, but we may be approaching that point. We already know that HTC is working with companies that develop eye-tracking technology, such as SMI and Tobii. (although the former has since been snapped up by Apple). We also know that Intel is working with HTC to develop a Wigig-based wireless solution for the Vive. This is not to mention that Valve is gearing up for the refresh of the Steam VR Tracking system, which offers new base stations and new sensors that aren’t compatible with the current Vive headsets.
A new Vive headset, with a higher resolution, native eye-tracking, built-in wireless, and support for Valve’s upcoming Steam VR Tracking 2.0 could rock the competition in the VR market and secure HTC as a leader in this space for at least another year.
We could also, of course, be reading too much into HTC’s tease. If you look at the blurry text on the teaser image, you’ll notice that the image distortion worse on the outer extremities than it is at the center. HTC may have developed a software layer that reduces the image distortion and provides a better visual experience without changing the underlying hardware. That would probably go over well with existing Vive owners, but new hardware would do better to attract newcomers to the Vive platform.
We don’t have to wait long to find out what HTC has up its sleeve; there's an official announcement scheduled for next week.