HTC will release a new VR headset in 2021, said HTC China’s President Alvin Graylin in an interview. HTC also posted a teaser image on Twitter a few days ago that seemed to be a part of a new VR headset. Here’s what we know.
In an AMA live stream interview with HTC China’s President Alvin Graylin, Mr. Graylin said that HTC will be releasing a new VR headset in 2021. Mr. Graylin could not divulge any details about the new headset but here are the things he mentioned.
- Standalone wireless headset: According to Mr. Graylin, the new headset will be a standalone headset, i.e., not tethered to a PC or phone. This also implies that it will be wireless.
Inside out tracking? During Mr. Graylin’s interview, someone lamented that VR galleries are looking for a freeroam VR headset that is not tied to Facebook. Freeroam means that the user is not limited to a small tracking area but will have a tracking area that is limited only by the available space. In response, Mr. Graylin said that, “We’re going to deliver a product this year. . . . I can’t give you any details but it’s definitely not locked to a Facebook account,” which seems to suggest that they will indeed meet that need. Freeroam also implies that the headset will use inside-out tracking with no external sensors, using computer vision.
Better than Quest. Someone asked if HTC had plans for releasing a competitor to Quest. Mr. Graylin reiterated that they are releasing a new headset this year. “I would not position it as a Quest competitor. I think it’s our next generation standalone. We will have one this year. It’s going to be a great product. I can’t give any specs on it. I think you’ll find that from every perspective it’s better than any product we have today and is probably better than what’s out there from any vendor today.”
Both the Oculus Quest and HTC’s current standalone headset, the Vive Focus, use the Snapdragon 835 processor. HTC also teased an image on Twitter about what you would do with “70% more power.” If the new headset has a more powerful processor, it could explain why Mr. Graylin said that it would be better than what is available from HTC or from competitors such as Facebook in terms of the hardware. The challenge will be whether there will be enough developers who will create apps for the new system.
- Privacy. One of the most controversial issues with the Quest 2 is that you need to use your Facebook account to use the Quest 2. In his interview, Mr. Graylin said that HTC is committed to using a different approach. “If you look at what we do in terms of data … absolutely – we have a very different approach. We don’t have a database that we’re feeding through an ad network. We’re not forcing you to use a certain social network to be able to turn on our devices. This is why I think businesses gravitate to our solutions. They don’t have to worry about whether my corporate sensitive data being fed through somebody’s server somewhere. We’re not going to take your data, we’re not going to store your data and we’re not going to use your data. Whereas that is the number one goal of other companies because that’s their revenue model.” Users who value their privacy could use the new headset as an alternative the Quest 2.
Open system. The new headset will likely be an open system that will allow most software. Mr. Graylin talked about HTC’s general philosophy about its VR headsets: “We’re really more about an open ecosystem. You can use any store you want. You can sideload it. You can link it to a PC. You can do whatever. We’re not going to lock you in.” This suggests that HTC will not impose any restrictions on using the new headset. However, Facebook could block Oculus apps from running on the new headset.
Price. Mr. Graylin didn’t talk about the price of the headset, but he said some things that implied that it will probably not be as cheap as Quest 2.
First, at one point in the interview, he said that people are overemphasizing price instead of the quality of the experience. This suggests that HTC’s priority is to provide a high quality experience, with price as a secondary or even tertiary consideration (below performance and ergonomics)
Second, Mr. Graylin implied that Facebook is subsidizing the Quest and Quest 2 because they are harvesting the data. HTC is not using the data therefore it seems that the cost of the VR headsets will not be offset by the value of the marketing data generated by the use of the VR headsets.
These statements seem to suggest that HTC is not as concerned about hitting a target price and is more concerned about the user experience and preserving privacy. However, he did mention that competition will drive prices down.
Please note these are personal views of Mr. Graylin, not official statements from HTC, and are subject to change. Would you be interested in a new standalone VR headset that offers better privacy? Let me know in the comments!