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HTC Vive debuted its Vive XR Elite virtual reality and mixed reality headset at CES 2023. I was able to get a very brief demo of a working headset at the show. and it showed me that HTC is willing to compete with rival Meta, Pico and Sony by going after consumers in the next generation of virtual reality.
It’s not a cheap device at $1,100. But like the more expensive Meta Quest Pro at $1,500, the Vive XR Elite (preorder link here) includes both VR and MR capabilities, with full-color RGB camera for passthrough viewing. I think it’s a sign that VR is going to have a very competitive and good year in 2023.
I caught up with Shen Ye, head of product and senior director at HTC, to talk about the VR headset and the market potential. HTC said the headset is perfect for gaming, fitness, productivity and more. But enterprises might go for this kind of device as well.
Vive XR Elite will see HTC Vive’s biggest range of launch titles ever, with 100 new pieces of MR and VR content arriving in the launch window – from new games to classics – with more to follow. HTC also continues to push forward with the metaverse, as the Vive XR Elite makes it easy to dive into the Viverse, which is HTC take on the metaverse. The company wants to see an open, interoperable and imaginative metaverse.
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Here’s an edited transcript of our interview.
GamesBeat: Can you give us some background? How long have you worked on this one?
Shen Ye: It’s something we’ve been working on for a while. It has a lot of technology from Focus 3, and a lot of the design from Vive Flow. We’ve been working iteratively for a long time. It’s hard to pinpoint any one thing. But we’ve been working on it for a while.
GamesBeat: Where do you feel like it fits?
Ye: This is our premium consumer XR headset. We don’t want to enter the game of the race to the bottom. We want to deliver something that’s not price-compromised. It’s delivering a really solid, good experience. That’s something we’ve done with XR Elite.
GamesBeat: The price fits right in the middle between where Meta priced their headsets. Is there an enterprise attraction for it as well?
Ye: We’re currently focused on consumer. The HTC Vive Focus 3 is still one of the most solid, proven headsets for enterprise. But we see there will probably be enterprise users. We’ll announce more about that later at Vive EC.
GamesBeat: Does this feel like you can jump into the metaverse as well?
Ye: We’re showing Viverse here as well. The metaverse requires some solid human interface devices, and I think that’s what this delivers on.
GamesBeat: How built out is Viverse as far as where you want it to be? If it’s your entry into the metaverse, what does it need to have?
Ye: Viverse will be delivered in stages. We have not only our own projects but others with Etisalat and China Mobile as well. But for XR Elite itself, it’s your home space. There are many social features, but also work and exploration features. All of that experience can also be seamless, whether it’s switching between content, switching between worlds, or even just inviting friends around.
GamesBeat: The mixed reality experience looks good. Did you concentrate on that?
Ye: For this device, mixed reality was very important. We’ve made a lot of breakthroughs in terms of latency, resolution, colors, and even dynamic range. For this, you can pull out a phone and see the text on your phone. That itself requires quite a few breakthroughs in terms of technology.
GamesBeat: When do you think the next generation of consumer software and games is coming?
Ye: We’re showing off a whole wide variety. Hubris here is the first time it’s been shown on an all-in-one because XR Elite is an incredibly powerful device. We’re not only looking at new content. We’re bringing in a classic content. We’re also bringing classic content with mixed reality modes. Maestro and even Unplugged are being shown here with mixed reality enabled for the first time.
GamesBeat: What’s your assessment of where the VR market as a whole is at?
Ye: We’ve had solid growth. Where we sit in the market is we’ve come here with an uncompromised upgrade. We think that with new mixed reality and the comfort it’s going to bring a new level of immersion to the experience. Developers are looking to bring that over as well. You can upgrade the hardware and it will upgrade all of your experiences, all in one go.
GamesBeat: Are you encouraged to see a real ecosystem forming around all of VR?
Ye: We’re looking at having higher vision tracking in the future. We support controllers and wrist trackers. There’s a lot of flexibility there. We’re a very versatile ecosystem. We have a very versatile content lineup for launch. We think there’s a lot of different ways people can use this. Here we have more lifestyle applications like fitness and art. We have music apps. We have gaming. We have PC VR if you have a PC. We have Viverse. We have this broad range of different titles to fit anyone’s needs.
GamesBeat: How do you feel about how open this part of the industry is?
Ye: There’s always OpenXR. But there’s always more room in terms of collaboration and sharing. There’s a lot of room for improvement, just like any industry.
GamesBeat: Developers will still have to make an effort to make their software run on everything.
Ye: It depends. We make our SDK quite easy to develop for. There’s going to be a balancing of resources between platforms for developers. But honestly, a lot of developers have been really excited about the hardware. They want to support it outright.
GamesBeat: How many applications are already prepared, did you say?
Ye: We have about 100 new titles for the launch window. It’s a wide spread. I don’t know the exact number in different categories.
GamesBeat: Are the game developers still around? What scale are they operating at?
Ye: They’re still here. But as for scale, that has such a wide range of answers depending on which developer. There are projects with 80 people and there are projects with two people. It’s still just a massively wide range.
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