The two best VR headsets you can buy right now are the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive. They offer the most immersive VR experiences, especially when coupled with motion controllers that replicate your hands in the virtual world.
But these headsets are expensive and require a powerful gaming PC, which is often pricey. That’s why standalone VR headsets are gonna step in and jump-start VR.
HTC’s announced plans to release a version of its Vive headset that doesn’t need to a PC to work. But there’s one big catch.
At this week’s China Joy gaming and digital entertainment expo in China and Asia, the Taiwanese tech company teased a standalone VR headset that it only plans to sell in China. HTC didn’t reveal when it’d launch or how much it’ll cost.
The self-contained Vive headset will be powered by a Qualcomm chipset (based off the current Snapdragon 835 chips in flagship Android phones according to TechCrunch) and its built-in motion-tracking technology. Users will access software from HTC’s Viveport app store.
Though HTC hasn’t revealed what the headset looks like or how advanced its built-in head and positional tracking are, it’s believed the headset could look identical to the Daydream VR-compatible standalone headset that’ll launch later this year in the U.S. (HTC and Google announced the PC-less VR headset at this year’s Google I/O developer conference.)
We won’t be missing much if China’s headset is the same as the U.S.’s, but TechCrunch says they’ll be different inside. Whereas the U.S. version will use Google’s WorldSense technology which utilizes six degrees of freedom (6DoF) for head-tracking, Qualcomm’s could support only three degrees of freedom (3DoF), which is what mobile VR headsets like the Samsung Gear VR currently use. Although, we’re not sure about that claim since Snapdragon 835 chipsupports 6DoF tracking for VR. Mashable has reached out to HTC for clarification on the differences — if there are any — between the Chinese headset and the U.S. version.
Everything you need to get a high-end VR experience is built into a standalone VR headset, no extra hardware required.
Otherwise, the only difference appears to be the software platform. The U.S. version of the headset will be based off Google’s Daydream, and China’s will be based off Viveport. Seeing as how Google is blocked in China, it makes sense for HTC to use an alternative app store for that specific market.
It’s exciting to see standalone VR headsets start shipping by the end of the year. As neat as mobile VR is, it’s just not as good as PC-based VR headsets. The graphics are always crappier and certain headsets like the Gear VR only work with specific phones.
Like I said when I tried Intel’s Project Alloy prototype headset, if VR is ever to gain mass appeal, standalone VR headsets will be the way to go. Everything you need to get a high-end VR experience is built into the headset, no extra hardware required.
With VR headsets moving in this direction, it should come as no surprise that HTC’s not the only one planning to launch a standalone VR headset. Facebook-owned Oculus is reportedly working on a self-contained version of its Rift headset. The device, codenamed “Pacific” and also said to be based off Qualcomm’s Snapdragon chips, could cost as low as $200 and launch next year.
If HTC also sells its new Vive headset for a few hundred bucks (the Vive and its wand controllers cost $800 and a PC costs extra), it could seriously make VR way more affordable for the average joe, as opposed to being cool tech just for enthusiasts.
VR might not have become the must-have tech we expected, but these new standalone VR headsets could jump-start interest (if augmented reality doesn’t kill it first).