Look Out Magic Leap, Vive Pro Is Now An AR Dev Kit

by Ian Hamilton • April 16th, 2018

HTC just released its software development kit for the front-facing cameras on the Vive Pro. The new update should help turn the device into the kind of augmented reality developer kit Magic Leap is distributing quietly in small numbers.

Magic Leap is raising billions of dollars for a a see-through AR headset that is hard to get access to as a developer, with digital images few can even see without signing a non-disclosure agreement. HTC is very different. The HTC Vive Pro is a high-quality VR headset shipping today in an $1,100 package, and you’ll need to bring your own high-end PC to power it. Unlike Magic Leap, though, Vive Pro is available for purchase immediately. It uses an opaque display with outward-facing cameras that can show you the world outside the headset while collecting information about the environment to merge both realities.

Here’s an example from Project Ghost Studios, which worked on the feature with HTC as an early partner.

This means you have some choice if you’re a developer looking to build software for headsets that mix a digital reality with the real world. You can sign up for the Magic Leap SDK and try to get your hands on hard-to-get hardware from the company while swearing yourself to secrecy. Or you can think about getting a product like the Zed Mini or Vive Pro to more quickly and openly explore your ideas.

With the latest tools HTC just released, creators can use depth and spatial mapping to do things like “Placing virtual objects in the foreground or background” and “Live interactions with virtual objects and simple hand interactions.”

“We have the option to map the environment (its part of the SDK), but since our game is so simple, we found that only using the game space with a flat surface works fine,” wrote Gaspar Ferreiro, president of Project Ghost Studios, about the example provided above.

Here are some more examples:

The tools are available as an early testing release on the Vive developer site.

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  • koenshaku

    If they could do AR so effectively HTC has poor marketing at least the pricey $800 mark could be a little more justified if they marketed this capability to begin with!

    • daveinpublic

      The current Vive has 2 external cameras, too. And for this purpose.

      • koenshaku

        It has a $hitty external camera and to that end it wouldn’t be a very good AR experience if that were the case.

    • dk

      if u look at the odyssey …..the real price of the vive pro is 400-450 with profit….they r just milking the deep pockets which is fine by me ….there is absolutely nothing that costs that much about it….offering some basic ar so that devs can experiment with it is neat….it’s not really a great working consumer ar product

  • impurekind

    Now this is a smart move. It kinda makes you wonder why they didn’t tout this duel feature of the headset from the get-go. I mean, everyone with a brain is ideally waiting for a mixed reality headset that does both VR and AR really well, so this is a great selling point.

  • polysix

    god… AR sucks so bad.

  • Ryan Knapp

    Definately a smart move… Tiltbrush in AR will be pretty awesome just for starters. I’d also like to see something like Jedi Challenges made for this.

  • DonMac

    Kinda missing the point, the Vive pro in the example above is cable tethered and within a cleared tracking space, Pokemon Go would not have gone if you couldn’t leave the living room.
    AR enhances the living areas we enhabit, but vr requires empty spaces to safely operate.

    On portable VR headsets with inside out tracking I can see the potential, and the flexibility of being able to switch between AR & VR. But for the Vive Pro it feels to me like another attempt to justify their massive price hike.

  • Gerald Terveen

    I’d say Magic Leap is happy to see a dev solution this suitable for their platform … this still does not really compare to the performance the Magic Leap is supposed to have. More worried should be the folks at Leap Motion though … because this could overlap with their business to a large degree.

    • Stefan Küppers

      The way i see it leap motion has a good headstart in r&d when it comes to hand tracking. And even their system is not precise enough imho. I doubt Htc or any dev for the pro will show perfect, consumer ready handtracking this year.
      And I am a bit disappointed that the Htc dev kit doesn’t include a WebVR/XR version. I even have trouble using the front facing camera as a regular camera in WebVR for tracking ar markers.

      • Gerald Terveen

        I agree on the headstart Leap Motion has – but they still seem to have trouble to actually get the Leap into consumer products, so they seem to have trouble to translate it into a market advantage for the time being.
        Something tells me that stereo cameras like on the Vive Pro will become more and more common on AR and VR devices. HTC might license their evolving SDK to other companies in the future and take away potential integration partners for their Leap Motion technology.

  • trekkie

    I find it funny that this contraption which looks like a Cyberman helmet from Doctor Who is well received but Magic Leap’s headset is ridiculed as being unweildy. I’ve seen dimwits on the blogs and forums balk at the cost of ML but this thing along with the PC that drives it is more than what ML is rumoured to cost but that does not seem to be an issue. I suspect that the bloggers are all paid by HTC, Samsung etc to praise their sub par products but ML doesn’t do so. The commenters need to wisen up as well.

    • Behram Patel

      I like your line of thinking but wouldn’t call Ian a shill for HTC ,Samsung etc. Bloggers / writers tend to get a little salty if they are not let in to play with the New Toy, so they may resort to back handed articles like this 😉 .

      But you’re right,In the the end all this will fall by the wayside when HMMR (Head Mounted MR) makes it’s debut.
      Peace and cheers man.
      b

      • trekkie

        Ok I apologise is it appeared to call any individual a shill. I was referring to ad spend and opinion articles that are sponsored. Ml has so far indulged in none of that but I am sure they will follow suit.

  • jlink

    In my experience, video see through doesn’t work well for MR. Lot’s of issues with things like resolution, latency, and FOV that make interacting with things physically really challenging and frustrating. Has anyone tried using the Vive Pro this way that can comment?

  • In this case I would say that the Meta is in bigger trouble than the Magic Leap. The Meta is also a tethered AR device. The Vive Pro with this enabled looks like it allows seamless transition between AR and VR, something that the Meta doesn’t offer.