HTC released the first major software overhaul for the Vive Focus standalone VR headset. The new update includes several new features, such as smartphone integration, support for 6-DoF (degrees of freedom) controllers, and improved support for expandable storage.
The Vive Focus System Update 2.0 enables seamless integration with HTC’s U12+ flagship phone, which allows you to receive messages, view notifications, and take calls without taking the headset off. The new update also allows you to stream content on the U12+ to the headset, such as videos or Android games.
The update also supports streaming game content from a host computer via a 5GHz WiFi connection. An optimized version of the Riftcat VRidge software is available on the Viveport M store, which supports the Vive Focus headset and allows you to play Viveport or SteamVR content with a Vive Focus headset. HTC said that you could use an Xbox or another third-party controller to interact with Steam content.
The headset’s wand controller also gets a new driver, which upgrades it from a 3-DoF controller to a 6-DoF controller. The update uses the headset’s cameras and a proprietary AI computer vision algorithm to track the movement of the controller with six degrees of motion, which enables you to interact with room-scale SteamVR games as you would with a tethered Vive headset, though the Vive Focus includes only one controller. The update also supports gesture recognition, and HTC released an SDK to help developers integrate gestures with their experiences.
The Focus now has improved storage options, like support for installing applications directly to a microSD card to expand storage capacity. HTC also partnered with Seagate to create a portable hard drive device called the VR Power Drive, which adds storage space and doubles as a battery backup that doubles the battery life of the Vive Focus headset.
HTC also introduced two new usage modes for the Vive Focus headset. “Passenger Mode” optimizes the headsets for use in a moving vehicle, offers improved battery life for video playback (four hours as opposed to three hours), and supports seated VR experiences. The software update also includes “Surroundings Mode,” which enables use of the passthrough cameras so that you can see the real world without taking the headset off.
The Vive Focus System Update 2.0 also sets the stage for HTC’s global launch of its standalone VR headset. The Vive Focus store now supports purchases from international credit cards, which means that developers from around the world can use the headset for leisure now, not just development. HTC hasn’t yet announced the North America release date for the Vive Focus, but the device should be available before the end of the year.