Last year, HTC announced that it was developing its own standalone VR headset, known as the Vive Focus. It was, and still is, a Chinese exclusive, but HTC did bring a couple of models over to Barcelona for MWC and I got to have a go for myself.
The demo involved strapping on the headset and finding yourself in a Time Crisis-style on-the-rails shooter where you had to use the Vive Focus’s controller to shoot enemy soldiers who were intent on blowing your head off. While you couldn’t exactly move, the headset’s internal sensors did allow me to move my head around – something that proved invaluable when those bastard baddies kept firing rockets at me.
Admittedly I didn’t get to spend a lot of time with the Vive Focus, but it was an interesting experience. As you might imagine, the headset itself isn’t quite as comfortable as the regular Vive, but it is a lot simpler. There’s only a single headband to content with, and since the headset itself is completely standalone there aren’t any wires to get tangled up.
Headphones weren’t an issue either, since the sound itself comes from dual speakers on either side of the lenses. You can hear everything fine, but from what I could tell waiting for other people to finish up there isn’t much in the way of sound leakage. Then again I was at a busy trade show, which may have skewed the result a bit. Still, the fact that it’s able to offer clear sound without headphones and without the prospect of pissing off everyone in the surrounding area was definitely a good thing.
The controller isn’t really anything unique, with the same basic shape and layout as Google’s latest Daydream controller. The trigger did feel like it required a bit more force than Daydream’s, though. It didn’t take long to get used to, but it was still a bit of a surprise. The downside to the controller was that the headset, or the game in question, wasn’t actually tracking how near or far it was to the sensors. What I mean by that is that it didn’t matter if my arm was fully outstretched or a couple of inches from my chest, the on-screen gun stayed in the same place.
It was rather annoying, and made aiming a little bit more difficult. Unfortunately I couldn’t tell whether that was a limitation of the headset, or the game itself.
Unfortunately HTC confirmed that the Vive Focus was still going to be a Chinese exclusive for now, with no announcements of a wider international released scheduled. Apparently China’s quite big on VR, which made it an ideal testing ground for the headset – allowing HTC to make sure everything worked well and that there was a decent amount of content before it’s released elsewhere. That also means that we don’t have any pricing information beyond the ludicrous ¥3,999 (£457).