In 2014, Facebook spent billions of dollars to acquire Oculus, and in 2015 HTC launched VIVE, a VR headset developed jointly with Valve. It can be said that the VR wave in the following years was triggered by these two legendary products. In the following years, new players continued to join, and losers liquidated and exited. The VR industry was also ups and downs.
In my opinion, to this day, the products that best represent the top level of the VR industry still come from HTC and Oculus. In May 2019, Facebook released Oculus Quest and Oculus Rift S, completing the update of the PC VR product line. HTC also brought VIVE Pro EYE and VIVE COSMOS successively this year. In particular, HTC VIVE COSMOS, which went on sale in October, represents HTC’s expectations for the popularity of PC VR devices in the consumer market.
More Popular Tracking Model
The first generation of HTC VIVE was once known as the top PC VR headset with the highest positioning accuracy at the time. This advantage was also inherited by the new generation of HTC VIVE Pro. However, the high-precision large-space positioning technology based on Lighthouse technology is not suitable for all scenarios. In commercial and industrial application scenarios that require high-precision positioning and wide space, HTC VIVE and VIVE Pro with external positioning base stations are naturally the best choices. But what about individual users who have less room for activity? A living room, a study or even a bedroom is the main place for ordinary consumers to use electronic equipment.
In my opinion, HTC VIVE COSMOS is a brand new PC VR headset for C-end users. It does not use HTC VIVE ’s traditional Lighthouse-based Outside-in tracking mode but instead designs 6 optical cameras on the headset to achieve optical spatial positioning and tracking based on computer vision technology. This is an external base station Inside-out tracking. Camera-based Inside-out tracking is not a new idea and technology, but VR headsets based on this positioning mode in the past usually have obvious experience defects.
For example, the number of cameras is insufficient, resulting in an insufficient field of view angles to achieve accurate positioning in full space; or because the chip’s graphics processing power is insufficient, the response speed based on optical tracking positioning is slow. From the point of view of physical experience, HTC VIVE COSMOS no longer has these defects. The six cameras achieve a wider field of view through a multi-directional layout, thereby achieving more accurate spatial positioning. Currently, Microsoft, Oculus, and HTC all use Inside-out tracking technology in headsets, making it the de facto tracking standard in the field of virtual reality.
HTC VIVE COSMOS also relies on the 6 cameras on the headset. They can observe and calculate the specific position of the handle, and achieve 6DoF precise tracking of the dual handle. Speaking of this pair of handles, we can see that their appearance is completely different from the previous handle shapes. In order to allow the camera to more accurately observe and analyze the position and angle of the handle, a larger ring is designed on the upper part of the handle of HTC VIVE COSMOS. The ring has a halo-like Totem text, and it will emit a striking white light when the handle is activated. After observing the pattern, tilt angle and size of the halo, the camera on the headset can accurately calculate the position and posture of the handle.
Perhaps in order to avoid the situation of having to use it temporarily after the battery is exhausted, the handle of HTC VIVE COSMOS does not continue the design of the built-in lithium battery but uses two AA batteries. From the actual experience, a pair of AA batteries can basically guarantee the continuous use of HTC VIVE COSMOS for more than 4 hours, the official data is 4-8 hours. It seems that the HTC VIVE COSMOS controller consumes a lot of power when it needs to continuously emit light, provide vibration force feedback, and exchange data with the headset. If it is for home use, then it should be a long time to buy a plate of No. 5 battery; but if it is for commercial use, the battery consumption may be a bit exaggerated.
Get Started in 30 Minutes
The change of the positioning and tracking mode has brought about a change in the concept of the entire product design and use.
First, HTC VIVE COSMOS has become more integrated and integrated. I remember when I experienced the original HTC VIVE, the entire system installation process took half a day. At that time, even some users could not complete the installation independently, and required professionals to provide paid installation services. When installing HTC VIVE COSMOS, I only spent half an hour in total, and the software interface has complete and detailed graphical prompts. The entire process is not much more complicated than installing a printer, enabling a nearly plug-and-play user experience.
Secondly, it is easier for users to prepare for the event space. Inside-out tracking does not require an external tracker, and users do not need additional wiring or construction indoors. When installing for the first time, as long as we turn our heads left and right according to the prompts, we can complete the graphic construction of the space in one or two minutes. HTC VIVE COSMOS requires less space for activities, as long as the official recommended space is only 2 meters by 1.5 meters. In the actual experience, if the player walks to the edge of the active area, a virtual wall prompt will appear on the screen of the VR headset, and the real environment scene can be seen to ensure user safety.
The use of image recognition technology determines that HTC VIVE COSMOS will have inaccurate positioning and tracking problems under pure color space or complex light and shadow conditions, but I think it is not easy for ordinary players to find a space with no decoration in the solid color at home. During the study and office experience, I did not encounter the problem of inaccurate positioning. Of course, maybe someone has higher requirements for tracking accuracy, or already has a positioning light tower; then HTC also plans to provide a more professional external positioning module, as long as the front panel of HTC VIVE COSMOS is removed and replaced. This modular design means that HTC VIVE COSMOS will have more application scenarios and is likely to become HTC’s main player in the PC VR field.
Improved user Experience
Compared with HTC VIVE, I think HTC VIVE COSMOS has two major improvements in hardware.
The first is visual effects. HTC VIVE COSMOS has two built-in 3.4-inch LCD screens with a single-eye resolution of 1440 × 1700, binocular combined resolution of 2880 × 1700, a screen refresh rate of 90Hz, and a field of view angle of 110 °. Compared with the resolution of 1080 × 1200 for a single eye and 2160 × 1200 for double eye, the number of pixels of HTC VIVE COSMOS has increased by 89%. A more delicate screen means that the distance between each pixel is closer. Therefore, HTC VIVE COSMOS, which also uses Fresnel lenses, has a more delicate picture when displayed. The screen window effect that was common on the first generation of HTC VIVE has almost completely disappeared. As a result, even the edges of the screen are not noticeably jagged. This exquisite picture experience, when watching the blue whale and jellyfish in “TheBlu”, obtained an immersive experience far more than ever. Especially when you look into the blue whale’s eyes, there is almost a feeling of entering the ocean floor.
Followed by comfort. The wearing method of HTC VIVE COSMOS has been upgraded, and the surrounding is fixed by a hard ring headband. This part of the structure is somewhat similar to PS VR, which can better distribute the weight of the entire VR headset to the entire top of the head without affecting the face. It causes too strong a sense of oppression. HTC VIVE COSMOS front panel uses a large area grid structure, this design brings a very good heat dissipation effect. Combined with a specially designed cooling fan inside the fuselage, we did not feel discomfort after wearing it for a long time, and there was no condensation of water vapor on the lenses, so we could clearly observe the picture. In the past, when experiencing VR headsets, the biggest problem encountered was the accumulation of moisture after wearing for a long time. It will look hot in summer and not sultry, and it is easy to fog on the lens in winter.
Easily Switch Between Reality and Reality
Players who have experienced HTC VIVE headsets should know that when the human eye is completely covered, it is extremely insecure. Sometimes a little sound or collision from outside will make people have a strong urge to take off the headset. To make it easier for users to switch between virtual and real, HTC VIVE COSMOS offers two solutions. First of all, the head-up display adopts a flip-up design. The VR head-mounted display is no longer tied tightly on the face by a cable tie but is worn by ring support on the head. A hinge is designed between the stand and the headset. When the player needs to observe the external environment, the VR headset can be flipped directly without having to completely remove the headset.
Secondly, an independent switch button is designed on the side of HTC VIVE COSMOS. When we press it, HTC VIVE COSMOS can directly display the picture taken by the front camera through the binocular screen. Although the displayed sharpness and color are relatively average, it is enough for us to judge the surrounding environment and what will happen. For example, when someone greets us, this projection method can meet the needs of distinguishing the position and approximate expression of a person. From this perspective, the evolution of VR, MR, or XR is likely to be unified on the same device.
VRS Virtual Space
For a long time, HTC has not disguised its ambition to be a platform in the field of VR, including spare no effort to build VIVEPORT. Because if you want to really promote the popularity of VR, hardware alone is not enough. In fact, in today’s supply chain is very open and mature, it is not difficult to build a VR headset at any cost. The key is what kind of software and content can be provided on the hardware.
HTC VIVE COSMOS is equipped with VRS (Vive Reality System), which is a VR immersive system built on Windows or other underlying operating systems, or it is more like an independent VR-based headset. Virtual space. This immersive system is inspired by “Number One Player”, and its Lens interface is similar to any door between independent virtual space and VR content. In VRS, the VR experience is no longer starting applications as before, but more like moving between different worlds. HTC’s creation of VRS also means that it will be able to adapt to more types and even branded headsets, and provide a consistent user interface and experience on mobile platforms, PC platforms and even cloud platforms.
We experienced this VRS system through HTC VIVE COSMOS. At present, it is composed of Origin personal virtual space and Lens interactive interface. Origin is like the “home” of players in the virtual world. At present, it mainly provides the function of using tutorials. However, from the perspective of HTC’s setting of its space, this is the home of players in the virtual world in the future. More life experiences are integrated here. As for Lens, although the interface has been optimized, it currently looks like it plays the role of a software launcher for docking various resources in VIVEPORT.
Content Ecology Needs to be Tackled
Speaking of PC VR resources, HTC VIVEPORT cannot be bypassed in the domestic market, especially after the launch of the VIVEPORT unlimited membership service. With HTC VIVE COSMOS, we will naturally experience a variety of content in VIVEPORT.
Frankly speaking, compared with the performance of HTC VIVE COSMOS in terms of hardware, PC VR is still weak in terms of software content. Before the C-end market broke out, it was difficult to form a benign interaction between VR content and VR hardware. Impressive VR 3A game masterpiece? Full-fledged VR movie? There is currently not enough mature content in the VR field, and the VR industry is still at a stage where hardware manufacturers subsidize developers and content creators. The only richer content is B-side content such as education and science because these contents have a clearer profit model.
But we should also see the progress of VR content. Works such as “Mercedes 2”, “fujii”, and “Audio Trip” have begun to have the potential to become popular, and they have gradually begun to explore the value of VR devices for the gaming experience. Especially “Audio Trip” basically superimposed the value of games, fitness and immersion, so that I found the feeling of playing Nintendo Wii. Oh, by the way, and Theblu, this immersive content that is difficult to experience fully shows the value of VR.
Zero Mirror Perspective
In the past, PC VR headsets had either poor user experience or complicated installation and use, which led to an obvious threshold for its popularity in the C-end market. HTC has been working hard to develop the C-end market for a long time, hoping to reduce the difficulty of getting started with PC VR and improve the user experience. HTC VIVE COSMOS is the latest achievement. Judging from the actual test experience, this product can fully fulfill the heavy task of popularizing PC VR headsets. COSMOS means “the universe”. Obviously, HTC, which has held the future in the field of VR, hopes to use HTC VIVE COSMOS as a device to pry the door of the new universe of virtual reality.