HTC announced the latest upgrades to the Vive virtual reality platform, including a new headset design with superior resolution and pixel density. The hardware is called the Vive Pro, although no firm price or release date has been announced.
“Vive Pro includes dual-OLED displays for a crisp picture resolution of 2880 by 1600 combined, a 78 percent increase in resolution over the current Vive HMD,” HTC said. The new head-mounted display also has improved ergonomics, built-in audio support and two front-facing cameras that open the door for augmented reality applications.
You can get a look at the new hardware in the video below:
That extra resolution and pixel density are no small thing, as it will now be easier to create experiences with much more detail that is viewable to the player.
“What this does, with the higher pixel density, is give you the ability to read in VR,” HTC Vive general manager Daniel O’Brien told Polygon. “We’ve had a lot of enterprise and professional use cases where they want to design a car or design a dashboard layout, and they need a higher resolution or pixel density in order to do that. So now that you can do that with this headset, we’re really excited about those scenarios and how game developers will take advantage of it, as well as the professional market.”
A lot of the improvements aren’t immediately noticeable but will lead to a much better experience for people using the headset. The button on the bottom of the headset will allow the screens to be moved toward or away from your face in order to accommodate glasses or slightly increase the field of view. The extra microphone will allow for better noise cancellation and more effective voice chat in noisy conditions.
The second camera on the front of the headset will also change things up, although HTC is being a bit cagey about what it will allow.
“We’re not putting any examples on display, but we are working on a lot of examples of how developers can take advantage of the second camera and do different types of maybe augmented reality experiences and trying different things,” O’Brien said. “We are opening the second camera up and giving developers a better camera experience than they had on the original Vive, and we’re working with a lot of developers on different experiences they can use with two cameras, like having depth-sensing with the second camera. A lot of the new features and functions are in-progress, and we’re excited about showing those things off very soon.”
We’ll get details about the price and final availability in the next few weeks, but the hardware will first be available as an upgrade for existing Vive owners in the first quarter of 2018. After that, it will be made available with the updated base stations and controllers early in the second quarter of the year. The new base stations will allow up to four sensors to be connected in a VR space, offering a play area of up to 10 meters by 10 meters, a size that will likely only be attempted by location-based arcades and professionals using VR for high-level design or testing purposes.
The Vive Pro sounds like a very sexy piece of equipment, but it’s going to be hard to get a sense for how it will compare to the existing Vive or the Oculus Rift deals out there until we learn the price.
The Vive Pro won’t replace the existing Vive — both options will be available throughout 2018 — which means professional and enthusiast VR fans will now be able to choose between the existing hardware and the new, premium option.