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HTC Vive is aiming to take virtual reality for the enterprise to a new level with two VR headsets and other professional tools in a big product launch today.
While consumer VR has proven to be a tougher market than expected, HTC has brought its Vive brand into businesses that need to cut training costs through immersive VR experiences. And that’s why it is introducing the HTC Vive Pro 2, a new VR headset that is connected to the PC, and the HTC Vive Focus 3, a standalone VR headset that is easier to take with you.
With those two products, HTC is covering both the high end and the low end of the enterprise VR markets, which are humming along because enterprises don’t mind paying higher prices for VR gear that can save them millions of dollars a year in training costs. Consumers, meanwhile, have been reluctant to buy pricey headsets and instead are opting for the wireless Oculus Quest 2, which sells for as little as $300, while they’re waiting for true mainstream adoption.
HTC teamed up with Valve, the maker of SteamVR, to make the first Vive headset in 2015. Since that time, HTC has seen VR grow in business markets such as aerospace, public safety, health care, education, and automotive. Lately, it’s been a struggle to keep the headsets in stock, the company acknowledged. The original Vive Pro and Vive Focus debuted for the enterprise in 2018.
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“In terms of driving into business and enterprise, this isn’t a pivot for HTC,” Dan O’Brien, global head of enterprise at HTC Vive, said in an interview with VentureBeat. “This is a continuation of something that we’ve been working on from day one.”
Meanwhile, Talespin Reality Labs, a spatial computing company focused on workforce knowledge transfer and skills insights, announced the debut of CoPilot Designer, a no-code authoring tool for immersive soft skills learning content available on PC and Mac devices. In addition, Talespin came out with new features for its skills data platform and released the new Talespin App, enabling organizations and learners to easily access learning content across XR devices. These additions to Talespin’s product ecosystem integrate with its recently announced desktop streaming capability and expanded content library to offer an end-to-end platform for content creation, distribution, and skills data. Talespin argues that VR helps improve learning in the enterprise.
HTC Vive unveiled the headsets at its online ViveCon 2021 event. Both headsets feature 5K resolution, a 120-degree field of view, and real RGB sub-pixels. The Vive Pro 2 will be available for preorder today and will go on sale on June 4, while the Vive Focus 3 will be on sale on June 27.
Also at ViveCon, HTC unveiled Vive Business: a range of new tools designed specifically for businesses of all sizes to exploit VR.
While HTC has focused on the enterprise, it also said that the Vive Pro 2 pushes the boundaries of PC VR for “incredible gaming, creating, and experiences,” while Vive Focus 3 redefines business VR with a purpose-built, all-in-one platform.
“The first area that we wanted to drive into was fidelity and immersion,” O’Brien said. “So we’re introducing the new Focus 3 with a 5K with two 2.5K panels.”
He said the OLED panel can push 36 million pixels. “It comes down to really strong graphics, and high field-of-view, for those simulation training sessions,” O’Brien said. “You can see everything in a more detailed layer.”
It’s a big bet by Cher Wang, CEO of HTC. In a statement, she said it was a major milestone in the quest to create the best immersive experiences. The headsets were designed from the ground up to deal with professional challenges using the latest technology available, she said. She said the ViveCon event itself was a sign of how virtual the world has become in the past year due to the pandemic.
Vive Pro 2
The HTC Vive Pro 2 takes PC VR to the next level for high-end gaming. The 5K resolution display delivers 2.5K to each eye, with a 120-hertz refresh rate and fast-switching panel with real RGB sub-pixels. The field of view is now 120 degrees, which means you can see more of your peripheral vision while wearing the headset. And it has a dual stacked-lens design with minimal motion blur. The dreaded “screen door effect,” where it looks like you are looking through a screen door when wearing the headset, is virtually gone now.
HTC worked closely with Nvidia and Advanced Micro Devices to use Display Stream Compression for the first time in a VR headset. Display Stream Compression ensures maximum visual quality and is also backwards compatible with DisplayPort 1.2, so even graphics cards that supported Vive Pro will see a benefit with Vive Pro 2.
Vive Pro 2 has fine-adjustable inter-pupillary distance (IPD, or the space between your eyes), evenly distributed weight balance, adjustable head strap, and a quick-adjustable sizing dial. It also has 3D spatial sound with Hi-Res Audio Certified headphones and supports third-party headphones. All Vive SteamVR ecosystem accessories will work with Vive Pro 2 – Vive Trackers of any generation, the new Vive Facial Tracker, and more. There’s a facial tracker that captures about 38 different datapoints on your face.
Vive Pro 2 will slot into an existing SteamVR setup, whether it’s Base Station 1.0 or Base Station 2.0, Vive Wireless Adapter, Vive controllers, or even controllers and gloves like Valve’s Index ‘knuckle’ controllers.
For upgraders, Vive Pro 2 in the headset-only version is available for preorder from 10 a.m. Pacific time today. As a thank you for loyal users, Vive is running a promotion during the preorder period, offering a discount for those who want to upgrade, making Vive Pro 2 available for $749. The full-kit Vive Pro 2, which includes Base Station 2.0 and Vive Controllers, is available from June 4 for $1,400.
Vive Focus 3
The new all-in-one Vive Focus 3 is a business VR headset for those who don’t want to be tied down with wires and instead prefer the freedom of a wireless solution that doesn’t have to tap the power of a PC.
The Vive Focus 3 has 5K resolution with dual 2.5K displays, a 90-hertz refresh rate, and a 120-degree field of view for better immersion. The fast-switching display panel uses real RGB subpixels, also eliminating the screen door effect. The new visuals mean fine details like writing and overall fidelity are dramatically clearer, allowing for software design and user interaction to be more natural.
“About 90 hertz is the minimum bar to deliver solutions with the right level of comfort,” O’Brien said.
Vive Focus 3 delivers comfort with a new strap design, balanced weight distribution, and a swappable curved battery pack. Vive Focus 3’s battery pack can be changed in seconds, allowing you to keep going. Quick charge gives you 50% battery from 30 minutes of charging, and an LED indicator lets you know how much power you have left.
Durable and lightweight, the magnesium alloy frame of Vive Focus 3 is 20% lighter and 500% stronger than traditional plastics. Vive Focus 3 has a wide range and fine-adjustable IPD, as well as a quick-release button and easily removable magnetic front and rear face gaskets. That’s good if there are multiple users.
Vive Focus 3 has new open-back speakers featuring a pair of dual drivers, delivering immersive and true-to-life audio. They are contact-free, which means users can still maintain environmental awareness while staying immersed in VR. For peace of mind in VR meetings, a special audio privacy setting dramatically reduces the risk of sound being overheard by people nearby.
Vive Focus 3 uses an AI-powered inside-out tracking algorithm for precise tracking (this means you don’t have to set up sensors around the room), with privacy addressed by storing all tracking data in an encrypted format on the headset. The redesigned controllers are intuitive to use — one of the lightest six-degrees-of-freedom controllers on the market, and it lasts for 15 hours on a single charge. Hand tracking support will be released in the future.
Powering Vive Focus 3 is a specially optimized Qualcomm Snapdragon XR2 platform, combined with a copper heat pipe and cooling fan. The all-new Vive Reality System 2.0 delivers a more streamlined and professional environment. Vive Focus 3 will be on sale June 27 for $1,300.
Vive Business is a complete suite of software and services, supporting the needs of businesses looking to get the best out of XR. Vive Business is scalable and secure, making life easier for deployment, maintenance, remote support, and training needs, the company said.
“We’ve been using it for business meetings, brainstorming, design reviews, and client interaction,” O’Brien said. “And we could also support press conferences.”
More than 50 third-party software developers are signed up to work with HTC, and 20 applications will be ready at launch.
The Vive Business Device Management System is an ISO-certified mobile device management (MDM) system that allows IT to quickly and easily see the status of each Vive Focus 3 on the network, remotely install new business apps, and update software. Vive Focus 3 is designed to work with Android Enterprise MDM, so it can also slot into pre-existing MDM solutions already active in your environment.
Building on the consumer Viveport store, the Vive Business AppStore is a curated collection of apps and tools, covering diverse areas like training, communication, and visualization. Vive Business Training supports training sessions of any size. The training leader can observe the progress of each trainee via an Android device, highlighting the next steps needed and talking the trainee through it, even in a class size of hundreds. Vive Business Streaming supports connecting Vive Focus 3 to a PC via a cable, with fully wireless streaming support coming in the future. Vive Business will see new tools and features added in the future, delivering a continuously updated powerful suite of business solutions.
The Vive Business platform has tools such as a digital whiteboard for a classroom setting, as well as ways to collaborate on a design together.
Finally, Vive Sync lets people meet in VR with realistic avatars to discuss business, host presentations, examine 3D models, and teach a class. Originally built as an internal communications tool to support collaboration on product design, Vive Sync was launched in beta in June 2020. Now, having been used in almost 100 countries around the world, Vive Sync is launching in Pro and Enterprise versions, offering different new environments, tools, and ways to interact. You can bring everyday files into VR, from Microsoft PowerPoint presentations to 3D formats. Vive Sync is good for groups of up to 30 people; for larger groups, Vive’s XR Suite offers a range of different scenarios.
You can see a bunch of partner testimonials from companies such as Qualcomm, Dassault Systemes, Autodesk, Epic Games, Adobe, Enscape, Twinmotion, Axon, Penumbra, and Zaha-Hadid Architects here.
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