At CES, HTC (which REM5 uses) announced two new VR headsets, the Cosmos due out later this year and the Vive Pro Eye. This follows Oculus's announcement of the Quest in fall 2018, meaning 2019 is going to be a big year for new headsets in VR. What does this mean for you? Should you buy one? Let's dig into these headsets to get some answers.
The first headset I want to cover is the Oculus Quest, which is slated to be a $400 standalone headset from Oculus that's due out in Spring 2019. The Quest's biggest differentiators are price, portability, and inside out tracking.
On portability, basically Oculus has taken the computing power needed to operate Quest from the computer to the headset. If you've tried and Oculus Go, you know that eliminating the teather of the computer is a nice feature when in VR. But there are tradeoffs. The graphics card is the single most expensive component in a VR computer and a standalone headset that costs $400 can't take a modern graphics card (either from a price or space perspective), so Quest will use the Snapdragon 835 processor, which was originally intended for mobile phones. The chip was originally announced in 2016, so this won't be the most powerful headset on the market. That's the price Oculus is willing to pay for being low-cost.
The inside-out tracking is arguably even more revolutionary. Instead of lighthouses that track a specified area (like we have at REM5), the headset itself will be tracking a person's movement. This will allow developers to build a much larger virtual world and eliminate the restriction of cords. The downside for inside-out tracking is blind spots that the headset can't see. Switching to a shield in Space Pirate Trainer or making a big swing in Beat Saber may lead to some wonky controller locations when hands come back in view, so watch for how headsets and developers handle this potential hiccup.
How does REM5 view the Quest? It's a great consumer product and hopefully it will sell into millions of homes. But it's far less powerful than the Vive Pro headsets we have today, so it won't replace our existing equipment. That said, if it's a good experience, we'll find a way to use Oculus Quest at REM5.
HTC isn't going low-cost
In stark contrast to Oculus HTC's recently announced Cosmos isn't going low-cost. Shown below, it's also using inside-out tracking but will be tethered to a computer (for now) and HTC has said it will have better resolution than the Vive Pro. That could open up the possibility of VR backpacks that would allow for a huge roaming area.
Price and other specs aren't out, but HTC says Cosmos will work with Steam VR and has indicated that it will try to push its own "Vive Reality System" as its platform of choice. Exactly what that looks like is unknown, but HTC clearly doesn't want to be reliant on Steam forever.
Another welcome change is new controllers, which resemble Oculus's Touch controllers. Vive's controllers have long been a sore subject for developers and users alike, so getting a more natural controller is a nice change.
What does REM5 think? Pricing for Cosmos hasn't been released, but it's likely the headset will be closer to the $1,400 of the Vive Pro rather than the $400 Oculus Quest. That means Vive is going after enterprise customers, like REM5, with this headset. Rest assured, we'll get one and if it brings better resolution, solid tracking, and better comfort to customers this could be our headset of the future.
Vive Pro Eye
Finally, we have the Vive Pro Eye, which is basically just the Vive Pro (like we have at REM5) with eye tracking. The idea is to increase resolution at the location a person is directly looking and reduce resolution in the periphery. This will optimize use of the critical graphics card.
REM5 will likely test a headset when it comes out, so stay tuned for more on this new upgrade from HTC.