HTC had a lot to share at its CES 2019 press conference today. Two new VR headsets, Vive Cosmos and Vive Eye Pro, undoubtedly stole the show. But it may be the announcement of the Vive Reality System that proves the be the most significant in the long run.
Vive Reality System is a brand new platform that will power Vive Cosmos. On the one hand, it appears to be the new user-interface where players will launch apps and access HTC’s VR storefront, Viveport. But the trailer below also suggests Vive Reality System will incorporate social VR, allowing friends to meet up with personalized avatars.
We also wanted to rethink how users interact in VR, so we are announcing the VIVE Reality System, a re-imagination of VIVE core software to bring more custom and meaningful VR experiences to our audience. Here’s a glimpse of it in action. #HTCVIVE #HTCVIVEREALITYSYSTEM pic.twitter.com/rnS1CfWEbD
— HTC VIVE (@htcvive) January 7, 2019
Perhaps the most important aspect of this news, however, is what it might mean for SteamVR. Until now, HTC Vive headsets have been entirely dependent on Valve’s VR platform. They utilized the company’s Lighthouse tracking and base stations. But, with Cosmos, HTC is introducing its own inside-out tracking system, free from Valve’s existing hardware. This might mean that Vive Reality System is HTC’s first move away from SteamVR on PC.
HTC has been experimenting with its own VR platforms for some time. In the mobile sector, the company created the Vive Wave platform for use with its Focus standalone headset and third-party devices. It’s possible that Cosmos will end up prioritizing Vive Reality System but also allow access to SteamVR games. Microsoft’s Windows-based VR headsets already do something similar for the Windows Mixed Reality platform. Cosmos will be releasing later this year, so we’ll be able to clean up our many questions then.
Still, HTC won’t be entirely abandoning SteamVR. The Vive Eye Pro will still require base stations for tracking. Speaking to UploadVR at CES, HTC’s Dan O’Brien said that the company will continue to make products that support Valve’s platform.