The Future of Virtual Reality: HTC Vive Pro & Vive Focus

The Future of Virtual Reality: HTC Vive Pro & Vive Focus

With the levels set for the first generation of VR devices, we can now take a look at the next generation of VR devices and see how they compare. As you’ll see, these headphones’ offerings vary greatly in quality of experience, just as the first generation offerings did, but the quality scale has been carried forward from the first generation of VR. The current generation high-end devices will be outperformed by some high-end next generation devices, and what can be considered the low end of this second generation goes beyond the mid-tier first generation devices. The future looks very bright for the next generation of virtual reality head-mounted displays (HMDs).
A number of companies have announced the launch of consumer virtual reality headsets in the near future. However, there is a vast ocean between advertising and mass release on a consumer scale. This ocean is full of companies large and small that have tried and failed to navigate the treacherous waters from advertisement to final version. Failure often comes through no fault of the company or the product itself. Whether it’s competing products, a fluctuating customer base, or any number of potential issues, evolving from thought to release is a tough climb for any product.
HTC Vive Pro
The Oculus Rift and HTC Vive had consumer versions in March and April of 2016, respectively. It may not seem like a long time ago, but in the realm of virtual reality, where time passes like dog years, it can feel like a lifetime. As such, it was time for an upgrade. And the upgrade is exactly what HTC is aiming for with the new HTC Vive Pro.
The original Vive was widely promoted as one of the best consumer virtual reality experiences you can buy. Rather than trying to create an entirely new headset, HTC has instead focused on addressing some of the complaints fans had with the original Vive. Vive Pro will increase Vive’s native resolution from 1,080 x 1,200 per eye to 1,440 x 1,600 per eye. By all accounts, the change is like moving from a standard definition TV to an HDTV.
The second feature that stands out with the Vive Pro is the new Vive Wireless Adapter. This adapter, which will work with the original Vive as well, features Intel’s WiGig technology to deliver a wireless experience operating in the 60GHz band. This should reduce response time and improve performance.

Note, however, that unlike experiences that feature inside-out tracking, the Vive will still need beacon sensors to track users’ location in space. The current headset from Vive, which offers six degrees of tracking freedom for its headphones and controllers, is one of the best headphones in the consumer market. Early reviews point to the wireless adapter’s ability to retain that experience – a huge step forward.
Six degrees of freedom (6DoF) refers to the body’s ability to move freely in three-dimensional space. In VR, this usually refers to the ability to move forward/backward, up/down, and left/right with directional (rotation) tracking and positional (translation) tracking. 6DoF allows realistic movement in VR worlds and increases the immersive VR experience. Devices that only offer 3DoF will never feel as immersive as 6DoF devices.
This is one of the main factors that you should be aware of for VR headsets. High-end headphones like the HTC Vive allow for a full 6DoF, while current-generation low- and mid-range devices often don’t. Current mid-tier mobile options like Google’s Daydream and Samsung Gear VR only allow 3D motion – the three rotational motions (pitch, yaw, and roll). However, it does not allow translational movements, which is a great differentiator between high-end headphones and the rest.
HTC has also chosen to incorporate headphones into its new headphones. (A common complaint with the original Vive was having to supply it yourself.) The Vive Pro also has an additional front camera (in addition to the existing one) in the headset. No word yet from HTC on what these cameras could be used for, though there have been rumors of their ability to sense environmental depth, for augmented reality apps, or the possibility of making the Vive Pro compatible with Windows Mixed Reality experiences.
HTC seems to be positioning the Vive Pro as an item for those looking for an advanced virtual reality experience, similar to the current HTC Vive. Think of enterprise-level gaming or entertainment users. The Vive Pro likely won’t appeal to the most price-sensitive consumers, but it seems content creators want to target the first-rate market for those who outshine their experiences. HTC shipped the Vive Pro in April 2018.
HTC Vive Focus
HTC Vive Focus is a mid-tier headphone from HTC. Details about HTC Vive Focus‘ features have been released in China (and internet for what it is, word is spreading).
Vive Focus is a standalone headset (not powered by an external computer or mobile device). The headset itself contains the computer running the experiment. It claims to be the world’s first standalone VR headset available to consumers with 6DoF tracking.

The built-in Vive Focus cameras provide indoor tracking on a global scale. This means that no external tracking devices are required so that the user can navigate the physical world and track their movements in the virtual world. Early reviews of the Focus’s positional tracking were very favorable, which is a good sign of the headphones’ unrestricted capabilities in general.
Focus is powered by a rechargeable battery that provides up to three hours of active use time. It comes with a single Vive Focus controller that supports 3DoF for the console itself, similar to the consoles of the current mid-level trials.
The Vive Focus is currently sold in China for around $630. At a higher price point than some other upcoming headphones, the Vive Focus, like the original Vive before it, appears to be targeting a high-end market looking for a premium experience. Speaking in an interview with Anthony Vitello, Vive’s China regional head for HTC said: “We don’t want to be the price leader. We don’t want to sell a $200 product with minimal features. Everyone who puts in a Vive should expect the best experience possible.” Vive seems less interested in competitors than in trying to find what works for mainstream adoption.
Vive stated that the headset’s reception in China will determine whether the headset sees another international release. It will be very useful to see how the Chinese market receives focus and what it could mean for a large-scale release.