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HTC’s standalone VR headset Vive Focus launched in China last year, and it’s getting some neat software upgrades ahead of its anticipated global release. Just announced at the 2018 Vive Ecosystem Conference, the Vive Focus System Update 2.0 enables the headset to link up with HTC smartphones, deliver longer battery life, and continue to be used in real-world settings without needing to be removed.

Perhaps the biggest feature of the 2.0 software is smartphone integration, designed to let users take calls, receive messages, and view social media notifications within the Focus VR interface without taking the headset off. Previously offered on the standard Vive, the Focus feature is coming first to the HTC U12+ and “shortly” for “all users” of HTC smartphones, with updates that will be distributed through HTC’s and Tencent’s app stores.

Support for passengers using the Focus in moving vehicles is found in new Passenger and Surroundings modes. Passenger lets users enjoy either a seated VR or movie-watching experience for four hours — up from three — without tracking constraints or being thrown off by vehicle movement. Surroundings mode activates the Focus’ camera, enabling a user to see the world outside the headset without removing it.

On the app front, the System Update 2.0 lets the Focus install apps directly to a microSD card and purchase apps via major credit cards from within the Viveport store. Focus users will also be able to stream Viveport or SteamVR content from a PC using the Riftcat VRidge app and a 5GHz Wi-Fi connection.

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HTC teased some upcoming features as well, most notably including a software update that will enable the headset’s 3DoF controller to act like a 6DoF controller by leveraging Focus’ cameras and AI, as well as a light gesture recognition SDK that can bring hand movements into apps. The Focus will also gain the ability to stream games, apps, and videos from the six-inch U12+ phone screen to the larger VR display.

In the third quarter of 2018, the Focus will receive a combination media storage device and external battery pack, courtesy of Seagate. Also compatible with the U12+, the VR Power Drive will be optimized for the Focus, promising to nearly double its battery life and add “thousands of hours of video or music.” Pricing and actual storage capacity haven’t been announced.

Vive Focus System Update 2.0 is available today directly from Vive Focus devices. The upcoming control and U12+ screen-streaming features are planned for release in the third quarter of 2018. HTC’s international release date for the Focus has not yet been announced.

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