The HTC Vive Focus is currently only available in China, but before it’s released to the wider world later this year it’s getting an interesting new update – although you might not guess that from the name: ‘system update 2.0’.
The update was revealed at the Vive Ecosystem Conference in Shenzhen, and one of the more exciting features that it’ll bring to the standalone virtual reality headset is the ability to receive calls, notifications and messages when you’re in your virtual world. This feature will only work with a paired HTC smartphone, and the first smartphone which will support the feature is the recently revealed U12 Plus.
This is something the PC-powered HTC Vive can already do with the Vive mobile companion app, but for anyone who's been waiting for a standalone solution this feature will no doubt be of interest.
Another feature that will really allow the portability of the Vive Focus shine through is Surroundings Mode. With the double-click of a button, this mode will make it possible for users to see the world around them while wearing the headset. It works well enough that HTC's China Regional President Alvin Wang Graylin was able to walk the length of a runway while wearing a headset – although admittedly that’s a fairly straight line, which greatly reduces the risk of things going wrong.
A new passenger mode will make it easier to retain the feeling of immersion when using the Vive Focus on bumpy public transport by turning off some of the headset’s trackers, to reduce the feeling of dissociation that comes with what you’re seeing feeling very separate to what your body is doing. Using this mode will also add an hour of battery life to the headset, making it even better for long trips.
Most excitingly for the standalone headset, however, is the ability to stream Steam or Viveport games from a PC directly to Vive Focus over 5GHz Wi-Fi through a third-party app. At the moment, though, it’s not clear just how well this actually works and how the games hold up. Fortunately, if streaming just isn’t for you the Vive Focus now supports MicroSD cards for installing VR apps.
HTC will, apparently, bring more features to the Vive Focus in the future, and has made mention of things such as hand gesture tracking, smartphone mirroring and the use of the HTC U12 Plus as some kind of controller. When these will arrive, however, is yet to be confirmed.
The HTC Vive Focus will go global later this year, although pricing and markets have yet to be confirmed.