Despite its unique modular design, HTC’s $699 Vive Cosmos VR headset had a rocky rollout last year, in equal parts because of its premium price and various software issues, including tracking problems. Thankfully, HTC isn’t giving up on the concept — instead, it’s announcing three new models in the family, as well as three faceplates that will enable a headset to “grow” with the user over time.
The core Cosmos experience is the same from model to model, including 2880 x 1700 total resolution with “all-new LCD panels” that minimize the screen door effect of black gaps between pixels. Each has a flip-up visor so you can easily drop in and out of VR as needed, and the ability to swap the front faceplate to add new features.
Priced at $899, Vive Cosmos Elite (shown above) lets users choose to forego the inside-out tracking of the standard Cosmos, instead relying on SteamVR Lighthouse base stations and a new External Tracking Faceplate. Elite will ship with that faceplate preinstalled, plus two SteamVR base stations and two classic Vive controllers. It will support but not include the Vive Wireless Adapter and Vive Tracker.
Elite will be available on February 24 for preorder and released before the end of March. In the second quarter of 2020, the External Tracking Faceplate will be available for $199 as an upgrade for Vive Cosmos and Vive Cosmos Play.
Vive Cosmos Play will be released as an entry-level headset “to start customers on their VR journey,” supporting “entry-level VR adventures and applications.” It will be “more affordable” for businesses and museums, but at this point it’s unclear how much more affordable it will be or whether it will omit controllers or other frills to get to the lower price point.
One change HTC is flagging for Play is a downgrade to a four-camera inside-out tracking system, rather than the six-camera system found in the standard Cosmos. In the new configuration, the top and bottom cameras disappear, leaving four cameras in a horizontal line across the left, front, and right sides. HTC will sell the original six-camera faceplate as a standalone accessory next quarter, enabling Play users to upgrade for $199. Additional details will be available “in the coming months.”
Last, but not least, Vive Cosmos XR will enable developers and later end users to expand Cosmos’ capabilities beyond VR into the augmented reality realm. Initial images suggest this model will eliminate Cosmos’ up- and down-facing front cameras in favor of two more cameras pointing directly forwards. That’s a total of four — two for tracking and two for the user’s passthrough vision.
Available as either a complete standalone package or a faceplate for other Cosmos units, XR promises to use up to 100 degrees of the headset’s field of view to blend real-world and digital visuals, using “high-quality XR passthrough cameras” to achieve the feat. Neither pricing nor a consumer release date are yet available for XR, but HTC plans to release more information at GDC and offer a developer kit in the second quarter.
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