HTC has been having a hectic time at CES 2019 this week, showing off a whole host of new VR goodies inbound for PC gamers. Top of the heap is the HTC Vive Cosmos, an all-new VR headset specifically designed around ease of use, comfort, and ease of access. Basically, the three major things that consistently get in the way of the HTC Vive achieving mainstream appeal.
Rather than court the low-end like Oculus, the Vive Cosmos is once again going to be a premium PC VR system, this time with some very handy benefits like a flip-up design, no external sensors, new lightweight materials, and updated Vive motion controllers.
The greatest strength of VR is its unprecedented immersion, but it’s also its greatest weakness. Anyone who’s spent a bit of time with VR will be all too aware of the need to look about your real-world surroundings occasionally. This necessitates hauling the headset off and on every time, which isn’t exactly convenient. The new Vive Cosmos has a flip-up design allowing the user to quickly lift the screen component up and over the eyes so they can see their surroundings or check their phone.
No external sensors
The Vive Cosmos consists of just the headset itself and the two motion controllers. Current versions of the Vive require external sensors to be permanently set up around a room so this would make for a much easier setup experience. Tracking is now handled through cameras on the front and sides of the Cosmos.
New Vive controllers
HTC continues to fine-tune its controller design and the Vive Cosmos will use the latest version of the controllers. They’re starting to look a whole lot like the Oculus Touch controllers, in truth, losing the old touchpad in favour of traditional analog sticks with face buttons. The new controllers can still do gesture controls and provides 6DOF tracking as well.
Big question over wireless
There’s still a big cloud of confusion over the wireless capabilities of the Vive Cosmos. Going totally wireless is the dream for any VR headset but it’s unclear whether the Vive Cosmos will need to be wired to a PC. In the marketing pictures, it looks wireless, but there’s no mention of wireless VR and HTC spokespeople are keeping schtum. This may even mean there are going to be both wired and wireless versions of the Vive Cosmos headset.
"We found that over 85% of VR intenders believe that ease of use and set up is the most important factor to consider while purchasing a headset", said Daniel O’Brien, GM of HTC Vive Americas. "We believe Cosmos will make VR more easily accessible to those who may not have invested in VR before and also be a superior experience for VR enthusiasts."
I think he's absolutely right on that front. On first impressions, the Vive Cosmos appears to be a heck of a leap forward for the HTC Vive, at least in terms of usability. It's less of jump in terms of technical capabilities though, not really offering anything from a gaming perspective that's any different from the current headset. The tech behind VR is already proven to work though, it's the cost and fiddliness that has turned people away. While we can't comment on cost right now, in terms of usability, HTC could smooth off a lot of rough edges with the Cosmos.
What are your thoughts on the new VR headset design? Is improved comfort and ease-of-use the right direction for HTC, or does VR need to come down in price to achieve success? Let us know what you think below!