HTC’s VR headset is getting some new accessories that will help owners immerse in virtual worlds even more; while HTC is aiming most of the extras towards consumers, there is, however, one add-on that developers may love to get their hands on.
Vive Deluxe Audio Strap
Starting off at the least exciting of the new accessories, but important nonetheless for increasing the comfort of the device. The Vive Deluxe Audio Strap replaces the entire fabric based head strap with a much improved sturdier plastic one; included is a turnable knob on the back for easily adjusting the fit of the strap while in use.
As for the “Audio” part of the name, the new strap comes with its own headphones unlike the original did; this removes the need for long-wired headphones, but users still reserve the option to use their on headphones with the 3.5mm jack, of course.
Now, unlike what the name may sound like, this isn’t something for finding a Vive after a hectic VR session. In fact, this small device lets developers turn almost any real world item into a controller of its own.
Weighing only 85 grams, the Tracker works by using the Vive’s Lighthouse system to track whatever it is attached to; this opens up a whole world of possibilities for developers to use as tools and weapons in their games. For example, instead of awkwardly holding both Vive controllers to simulate a rifle, the tracker can be on a gun-shaped controller for a much more immersive and comfortable experience when playing VR games.
Third party peripherals with a slot for the Vive Tracker may become commonplace in the future if games support it; for this reason, HTC will be sending 1000 Vive Trackers to developers ahead of launch to implement in their games.
TPCAST wireless adapter
One of the main drawbacks of VR headsets are the restrictive wires sending the power and video signals to it. This is the exact problem HTC’s TPCAST wireless adapter aims to solve by making the Vive “almost” completely wireless. The almostness coming solely from the wire going to the battery pack users have to wear when using the Vive.
Other than that, after attaching the device to the Vive, it provides complete freedom to walk around while in use. Although keeping the headset’s latency low when wireless was a big concern – as it may cause issues such as nausea – users trying out the adapter at CES came away saying the wireless experience was quite similar to the wired one.
However, the one big disadvantage of the TPCAST wireless adapter is its battery life, coming with only 1.5 hours of use. Eventually, HTC is planning to release an XL version of the battery pack with 5 hours of use.
The Deluxe Audio Strap is aiming to launch in Q2 of 2017; HTC has not put out any pricing details, however. The Vive Tracker is also following suit with no pricing announcements and has the same Q2 2017 release date.
Finally, the most important of the accessories; TPCast wireless adapter have been on sale in the Chinese Vive store since November of 2016. HTC has now announced the worldwide release would be in Q2 of 2017, at the price of $249.
Although HTC is holding back news about any plans of releasing a new VR headset for 2017, these new accessories are making the Vive even more robust in features than the competition.
Microsoft’s plan to saturate the market with dozens of VR and mixed reality headsets designed and manufactured by its OEMs is something the folks at HTC and Oculus need to be wary of; it’s even worse when considering the price.
A $300 VR headset, after all, sounds a lot more appealing than a $900 one.