HTC’s U12+ flagship smartphone and the Vive Focus standalone integration marks the emergence of the new Vive Reality Ecosystem
HTC Corporation (“HTC”), a pioneer in innovative, smart mobile and virtual/augmented reality (VR/AR) technologies, today held its annual VIVE™ Ecosystem Conference (VEC2018), where it announced and demonstrated innovative advancements that show the converging of its smartphone and VR/AR businesses. The newly announced HTC U12+ flagship phone when combined with the VIVE FOCUS™ System Update 2.0 enabled seamless integration between mobile and immersive device. The event also announced a number of strategic partnerships across multiple industries. HTC is reinforcing its stated vision of Vive Reality by integrating the benefits of VR, AR, 5G and AI technologies into a new combined ecosystem, and welcoming partners from around the world to work together to realize it.
Vive Focus System Update 2.0 released
In the new System Update 2.0 released today, Vive Focus users are now able to receive messages, social notifications and take calls on their HTC smartphones without taking off their headset. This allows users to stay in touch with the outside world while immersed in VR. By updating its built-in Vive companion app, HTC U12+ users will be able to explore the first-hand experience of those integrated features, and the upgraded Vive companion app will be available in both HTC official app store and Tencent app store shortly, for all users to enable their HTC smartphones to connect with Vive Focus and PC based Vive devices.
To support the need for users to operate the device in moving vehicles, a new “Passenger Mode” is part of the system update optimized for seated VR experience or watch movies for up to four hours (originally three) without tracking constraints. With a double-click of the power button, users can activate the all new “Surroundings Mode”, to browse the space around them without taking off the headset. In addition, this update enables the ability to install applications directly to their microSD card (up to 2TB), so users will never need to worry about running out of storage for their favorite applications. What’s more, VIVEPORT™ M global account on the Vive Focus now supports payments from major credit cards, allowing users anywhere in the world to purchase premium applications for the device.
Moreover, HTC has empowered the Vive Focus standalone with a host of additional innovative coming features that will enable a superior user experience. HTC demonstrated multiple applications utilizing its light gesture recognition SDK for the Vive Focus giving developers the ability to bring both hands into VR applications. This gesture SDK will be released to registered Viveport developers in the coming weeks. Additionally, HTC teased the ability to upgrade Vive Focus’ current 3 degree of freedom (3DoF) controller to behave like 6DoF controller without the needs for any additional hardware by leveraging the device’s existing front facing cameras and its proprietary AI computer vision technology. Also highlighted in its preview video, was the ability to stream phone screen content from the HTC U12+ to the Vive Focus enabling millions of existing mobile applications, games and video content to be enjoyed on a super-size screen vs. a 6″ one.
For Vive Focus users who want to access a richer library of premium VR applications at home, HTC demonstrated the ability for PC VR content from Viveport or Steam to wirelessly stream to the Vive Focus via a 5GHz Wi-Fi network. This is enabled by an optimized version of the Riftcat VRidge application that takes advantage of the higher resolution and refresh rate of the Vive Focus which can be downloaded on the Viveport M store today. Vive Focus users can now enjoy a library of hundreds of supported premium VR titles without any wires and without any special accessories. Users will be able to operate the PC VR applications interface either by using the standard Vive Focus controller or Xbox controller and third party controllers paired to the host PC.
“VEC2018 marks the beginning of a new chapter for HTC as we combine our heritage of innovation in the mobile sector with our industry leadership in the VR/AR field.” said Alvin Wang Graylin, China President, HTC. “The breadth and depth of innovation demonstrated here today is a clear sign of our commitment to the industry and our many partners in building a new ecosystem around the Vive Reality pillars of VR, AR, AI and 5G. The new capabilities and experiences highlighted in the event today are solving some of the biggest concerns in the market about the VR/AR industry marking a clear step forward to increasing adoption to the masses.”
Building a sustainable and expandable new ecosystem
Since the launch of the VIVE WAVE™ VR open platform last November where 12 hardware partners pledged support for the new platform, Vive Wave enabled devices have started to come to market. Among them, Pico, iQIYI and Skyworth endorsed Vive Wave by embedding it in their newly released and upcoming products. HTC is committed to uniting the fragmented mobile VR market in China and bringing even more high quality devices and content to all segments of the market.
Other than empowering the hardware market landscape, HTC is also making efforts in content developing to expand the new ecosystem. The Oasis Beta VR application currently available on Viveport is a scalable world with numerous exciting content inside. HTC disclosed it will soon be adding a full function “Avatar Creator” and “Social Area” enabling limitless possibilities to customize users’ own avatars and added fun of going together to the Oasis to meet people from around the world. HTC is calling on developers around the globe to join “The Oasis Expansion” program and submit their applications for future inclusion in the world of Oasis Beta.
HTC’s affiliate company, Vivedu, also showcased the potential for VR to improve education by launching its collaborative “Vive Focus Classroom”. This integrated VR classroom solution supports up to a hundred simultaneous students in a shared VR classroom using the Vive Focus. The students can be located in the same physical space or join classes remotely. Virtual reality enhanced teaching combined with distanced learning enabled in a multi-user shared virtual environment can take the concept of immersive education to a new level.
Forming strategic partnerships to drive mass adoption for VR/AR
At VEC, a new partnership with Major League Baseball (MLB), the professional American baseball league, was announced onstage to kick off a series of collaborations in China, including the Baseball Park roadshow across more than 10 major cities and the “Perfect Pitch” reality TV show on the Tencent video network. Baseball has recently emerged to become a growing sport trend for post-millennials in China. MLB has found that VR helps both to increase popular interest for the sport amongst this audience and is a great training tool to help youth improve their skills.
“We are proud of this exciting new partnership with HTC that will bring virtual reality technology to two important MLB fan engagement initiatives in China,” said Jim Small, MLB Vice President, Asia Pacific. “This cooperation provides MLB with important support to grow the game in China and it delivers an exciting new way for fans to enjoy MLB action.”
To continue the sports theme, HTC also announced a long-term strategic partnership with the world-famous Formula One (F1) team McLaren, to jointly produce VR products and VR/AR content targeted at bringing a new level of spectatorship and participation to the enormous 500 million plus F1 fan base. The two companies will also work together on the world’s first VR eSports competition linked to a real professional sport. HTC will be the official VR partner of McLaren’s eSports competition, where McLaren will search the world for people who will ultimately become part of the McLaren racing team. China is one of the largest markets for McLaren car sales and is also the largest eSports market globally.
Zak Brown, Chief Executive of McLaren Racing, commented: “This is a tremendously exciting partnership for McLaren and HTC. Innovation sits at the heart of both our brands and our collaboration will enable F1 fans of today and tomorrow around the world to become more immersed and engaged in this incredible sport. As McLaren continues to develop its eSports program, HTC will help us build on and accelerate our early adoption of this platform.”
Last but not least, HTC announced a partnership with Seagate, the world’s leading storage solutions provider, to bring the world’s first accessory device to provide both extra battery life and massive media storage designed for VR devices. The Seagate ‘VR Power Drive’ has been optimized to plug and play with the Vive Focus. It will allow users to bring thousands of hours of video or music, while nearly doubling the battery life of the Vive Focus. The device is also compatible with the U12+ and comes with easy to use backup software, so users won’t have to worry about losing their data again. The device will ship in Q3 this year.
“We have been working together and committed to jointly developing solutions for VR devices since our partnership established. Today, we are delighted that we have devised the Seagate VR Power Drive, which is tailored to the Vive Focus, by applying Seagate’s unique storage expertise to meet Vive Focus users’ increasing needs for data.” said Jim Murphy, executive vice president, worldwide sales & marketing, Seagate Technology. “In the years to come, we will continue to cooperate with HTC, and further optimize storage solutions according to the characteristics of VR applications to better meet the special data needs of the Vive products and bring Vive users the optimal experience at home or on the road.”
Vive Focus System Update 2.0 can be downloaded on all Vive Focus devices today, and further updates are expected to release in Q3. The Vive Wave, Vive Focus and Vive Pro SRWorks developer SDKs are all available for download on the Vive Developer website at vivedeveloper.com for all registered Viveport developers.