VR continues to trend upwards, and that’s no secret. However, like most new things, it’s been plagued by a drought in terms of affordable gear. Sure, there’s plenty of cheap alternatives that turn your phone into a VR theater for less than 50 bucks, but that’s not really what we’re looking for. The level of interactivity that those ‘headsets’ offer is rather small, mostly limiting the user to being a passive viewer, as opposed to an active player.
The main problem thus far is creating a headset both capable of handling VR and pricing it at a range where an average consumer can afford it. Until that happens, VR will remain a niche thing, only for those who make it their (very pricey) hobby. This in turn creates a vicious cycle. The more niche something is, the less developers feel comfortable to invest in it. With experiences which are only meant to be viewed, this isn’t really a problem, as the cheap solutions are plenty, but as far as deeply interactive experiences are concerned, there isn’t much out there.
We are however, seeing progress on the matter. The Vive currently retails at 799USD and the Vive Cosmos for 700USD, a price which is rather hefty for most people who aren’t as committed or are on the fence about VR. HTC however, is making an effort to expand its appeal. Instead of having a ‘one size fits all’ approach with their hardware, they’re now splitting it into four.
The standard Vive Cosmos will now become the ‘Mid Tier’ headset in the Cosmos line, with 6 cameras and inside out tracking. Beneath it, for 200USD less, is the ‘Entry Tier’ Vive Cosmos Play, which only has 4 cameras, but allows a significantly more affordable option. It’s all in the psychology really, saving up to, or making an impulse purchase of 500USD is easier to justify in a consumer’s mind than one of 700 or more.
Of course, for those who are less interested about budget, and more interested about the best experience possible, the ‘High Tier’ Vive Cosmos Elite will be available for 900USD which will be capable of both inside out tracking, but also SteamVR tracking.
And finally, for those slightly more experienced in VR and also interested in development, the Vive Cosmos XR will release as a devkit with a specific focus on at pass-through augmented reality. Of course, it will be fully capable of showing augmented reality as well. The price for the XR remains to be announced.
Furthermore, HTC has revealed a prototype for the ‘Vive Proton’ a compact and standalone VR headset which looks more like a set of glasses rather than what someone would expect of a traditional VR headset.
Overall, changes like this in the market can only mean one thing. The market is growing, and demands variety. It’s only a matter of time until the VR phenomenon spreads even further.