Despite some VR naysayers, HTC still sees a bright future in virtual reality. The company used this year’s CES in Las Vegas to highlight its efforts for the emerging medium and announce a number of new initiatives and pieces of hardware.
Among the details is news of a new VR tracking device meant to allow users to bring a variety of different real world objects into the virtual one. The company also detailed a Vive Deluxe Audio Strap which serves as an upgrade for the Vive’s existing head-mounting strap.
Finally, Vive discussed a new subscription program it’s rolling out for software and the coming of wireless VR headsets.
While wireless virtual reality is coming to the HTC Vive this year, it won’t be coming directly from HTC, the company said.
“Our approach to wireless and VR is the same approach that we’ve taken with the Vive — wireless will be open-standard and we look forward to supporting any company that can demonstrate a low-latency solution to wireless VR,” said Daniel O’Brien, GM, US and EMEA, Vive. “We are confident that wireless VR will be a significant contributor to the Vive ecosystem in 2017."
While the company didn’t have any of its own wireless hardware to show off, it did showcase the TPCast, a wireless adapter for the Vive that was incubated through the Vive X accelerator program.
The TPCast is shipping in the second quarter of the year and will sell for $249. It promises a 1.5-hour battery life and the ability to deliver 2K video resolution at 90Hz with less than two millisecond wireless transmission latency. A five-hour XL battery is expected to be released down the line for the TPCast.
The company also announced a trio of new services through Viveport, the company’s global app store.
Later this year, HTC will roll out an app subscription service for VR content. The new service is an effort by the company to help customers navigate the now thousands of VR apps available on Viveport, Rikard Steiber, president of Viveport, told Polygon.
The service is meant to help people navigate Viveport’s growing marketplace and discover new apps in a library that is expected to hit 3,000 titles by the end of the year.
“We’re adding 30 titles a week now,” Steiber said. “The challenge is that for consumers, how can you discover great content.”
He likened the upcoming service to something akin to Netflix, though it won’t include VR games. Games will be included in the subscription service in China, where Viveport is also the main retailer for games.
Steiber declined to say if the inclusion of games with the service outside of China was a possibility down the line. Currently, all games for HTC Vive are sold through Steam, which doesn’t have any all-you-can-play subscription services.
“We are happy with our partnership with Steam,” he said. “They cover gaming like no one else.
“They have a very, very strong gaming foundation.”
Viveport will also be rolling out dedicated app stores for enterprise and arcades, he said.
Arcades remain a major part of Vive and VR’s future success, in the minds of those at HTC. Steiber said that they already have more than 1,000 arcade locations in China alone and that they expect that number to grow to 5,000 globally by the end of the year.
“We think this is a $100 million opportunity for the next few years,” he said.
Streiber added that HTC remains very supportive of virtual reality.
“We are very happy with the progress we made this year,” he said, though he declined to release any sales number. “We reached our targets when it comes to shipping and things look very promising following the holidays.
“We are just at the beginning of the revolution.”