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HTC's VIVE XR Elite aims to be the new all-in-one, premium headset for everyone
HTC is finally ready to take its shot at recapturing leadership of the VR/AR space with a new headset designed to handle any AR,VR, MR, or XR task you throw at it. And, it's priced significantly lower than the Meta Quest Pro.
When Meta unveiled its Meta Quest Pro headset, the company went out of its way to make it clear that the hard-to-swallow $1,500 price tag was more geared toward enterprise customers, while consumers should probably stick with its Quest 2. HTC has done the exact opposite with the debut of its VIVE XR Elite headset, making it clear that this "consumer flagship all-in-one" product is designed for you.
The physical design of the new flagship leans heavily on the glasses-like aesthetic of the existing HTC VIVE Flow model. However, where that member of the VIVE family was designed primarily for media consumption, the VIVE XR Elite is designed for, well... everything.
HTC's really leaned into its "all-in-one" designation by equipping the unit with sufficient hardware to handle everything from mixed reality applications seen through its full-color RGB passthrough cameras, to playing casual or intense VR games, to experiencing social spaces in the new VIVERSE, HTC's own "version of the metaverse."
This level of versatility requires two things: powerful hardware and modular design.
On the hardware front, the VIVE XR Elite sports some of the most impressive specs to land in the consumer VR market yet. Despite weighing just 625g in its heaviest configuration, the unit packs a 110-degree field of view (FOV), 4K resolution, a 90Hz refresh rate, and adjustable lenses that can even accommodate most users that would normally need corrective lenses in other headsets.
This takes things an impressive step beyond the usual IPD (inter-pupillary distance) adjustment most headsets are limited to, which it also has covered.
Equally as important as the headset's visual prowess are its tracking capabilities.
For this task HTC has included four wide FOV cameras to provide "exceptional 6DoF [6 Degrees of Freedom] spatial accuracy," a depth sensor, hand-tracking, and capacitive sensors that can detect finger movements on the controllers.
The VIVE XR Elite also support's HTC's VIVE Wrist Tracker for enhanced hand tracking or even tracking of physical objects, like a baseball bat or tennis racket.
To further suit the huge range of games, activities, and applications this hardware can support, HTC designed the VIVE XR Elite to be modular. While it closely resembles offerings like the Quest Pro with its "Battery Cradle" connected, you can also disconnect the battery back and wear the unit like a pair of glasses, as seen above. This supports more casual, less motion-heavy use cases like watching video on an airplane, participating in virtual meetings at the office, or just relaxing with a casual game on the sofa.
When not connected to the included Battery Cradle, which is capable of 30W fast-charging, the VIVE XR Elite can also be powered via USB power sources like battery banks or airline seats, HTC noted.
That same USB-C connection also allows gamers to use the XR Elite to play PC-based VR content from both VIVEPORT and Steam. Or, if you'd prefer to skip the cables entirely, the headset can be connected to a PC wirelessly via Wi-Fi 6E for low-latency PCVR gameplay while completely untethered from your gaming desktop or laptop.
To exploit all of this hardware, HTC plans to launch the VIVE XR Elite alongside a slew of software and services that can take advantage of it. Among the company's software plans for its launch window are:
The creation of a new "two-floor, customizable social space" that will serve as the wearer's virtual home. Through this space, users can access their games and apps, visit "new worlds" by stepping through paintings on their walls, and access HTC's VIVERSE virtual universe.
The VIVERSE itself, which will leverage the open VRM standard to allow 3D modeling platforms like Sketchfab and other partners to create free 3D assets users can import into their virtual homes.
A series of virtual storytelling events, beginning with "The Little Prince" later in 2023.
Partnerships with media companies for unique avatar accessories and music experiences.
A collaboration with Lamina1 to create an "open metaverse ecosystem for society" to enable easier "cross-world cross-platform asset distribution" for things like avatars, clothes, artwork, and more.
More than 100 games and app arriving to the VIVEPORT store in time for the launch window, including titles like Figmin, Hubris, Yuki, Maestro, Les Mills Body Combat
Pricing and availability
As I mentioned at the top of the piece, HTC very much intends for the VIVE XR Elite to be accessible not just to wealthy enterprise customers, but also to the average consumer. While it's by no means a budget device, its $1,099 starting price does put it well below the $1,500 cost of entry for Meta's Quest Pro headset, and at barely more than a solid gaming laptop or, for that matter, a decent desktop graphics card, might run you these days.
If you think the HTC VIVE XR Elite looks like your next headset, you can pre-order one today from HTC itself, or from participating authorized retailers across the globe. Shipments are expected to begin reaching consumers some time in late February.
The company also noted plans to offer bundles with the headset and XR games or content in some regions, as well as direct sales for enterprise users some time later this year.
Looking even further forward, HTC teased a "Face and Eye Tracker" unit planned for later in 2023, though it offered no additional details on the planned add-on.