HTC’s best VR headset just got a lot more exciting.
The company unveiled a new Vive Pro Eye headset, which has eye tracking features built directly in, eliminating the need for external controllers.
Instead of using hand controllers to navigate content, the headset uses “gaze-oriented menu navigation.” In other words: you can navigate around menus and other content just by looking at them.
The Vive Pro Eye comes one year after HTC first launched the $799 Vive Pro, its first VR headset optimized for enterprise users. The Vive Pro Eye has a similar design as last year’s Vive Pro, though it’s gotten upgrades under the hood to incorporate eye tracking.
HTC says it plans to make the Vive Pro Eye available to developers later this year, and it’s already been working with a select group of partners on experiences for the new headset.
The MLB, for example, has used the Vive Pro Eye for its Home Run Derby VR game. I got to try out the game myself and the eye tracking worked pretty much as expected, though it was only available with the in-game menus — the gameplay itself still required a controller, which in this case was mounted on a plastic bat. But it still eliminated the need for me to actually hold a controller or push any buttons.
But MLB’s SVP of Games and VR, Jamie Leece, told me the in-game menus are just a starting point for eye-tracking, which could become more deeply integrated into VR titles over time. For now, the league is using it in stadiums that have Home Run Derby VR set up for fans to play at the park.
Other use cases are much more business oriented, which is not surprising given the “Pro” title. Lockheed Martin is using the Vive Pro Eye to help train student pilots, for example.
Besides just enabling new controller-less experiences, the company also notes the new headset could have a significant impact on accessibility since it could open up VR experiences to people who aren’t able to use traditional hand controllers.
HTC hasn’t revealed a price or release date for the Vive Pro Eye, but says it will launch during the second quarter of 2019.
The Vive Pro Eye wasn’t the only new headset HTC showed off. HTC also teased an all-new headset called the Vive Cosmos. Unlike the Vive and Vive Pro, the Cosmos won’t require external trackers, and is optimized for comfort and ease of use.
The Cosmos, which will run a new platform called “Vive Reality System,” is meant to be a more approachable type of headset than what HTC has typically offered. Unlike The Vive Pro Eye, it will make use of hand controllers, but won’t require external sensors placed around the room.
Intriguingly, the company also hinted that the headset could be compatible with mobile devices, in addition to PCs. A render that appeared on-screen during HTC’s CES press conference clearly showed a smartphone form factor overlaid onto the headset, though the company stopped short of outright saying it would work with smartphones.
HTC says it will reveal more details around pricing and availability for the Cosmos later this year.
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