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Vive Focus: HTC cuts the cables with standalone, 'world-scale' VR headset

Walk around freely in an untethered VR world

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HTC has revealed a new virtual reality headset which no longer relies on wires and base stations to create VR environments you can physically walk through.

Upgrading the HTC Vive's 'room-scale' system to 'world-scale', the new Vive Focus uses cameras positioned on the headset and facing outwards to map the environment and let the user navigate through virtual worlds, even if they are in a confined space.

With the older Vive, users had to mount two base stations approximately 6ft in the air at either end of where they wanted to use the Vive, severely restricting its ease of use.

The Vive Focus is the first virtual reality headset to offer six degrees of movement - left/right, up/down and forwards/backwards - while also doing away with the need to be tethered to a computer. Being a standalone headset means there are no cables at all, as the computer, battery and display are all integrated into the device. Games and VR experiences will be accessible via HTC's Viveport catalogue.

HTC isn't saying much about the new headset, other than it will be powered by a Snapdragon 835 processor - as used by the Samsung Galaxy Note 8 - and feature a "high-resolution" AMOLED screen. There is also a single handheld controller for interacting with games and menus.

Picking faults with previous all-in-one VR headsets, HTC Vive China president Alvin Wang told Engadget: "In the past, standalones have always kind of represented a mediocre balance, where you don't have much content and you can only do rotational, and it's not that much different than [Google] Cardboard except now you have one individual machine. Now you can essentially do most of the things that you could do on a high-end machine on a standalone."

HTC is yet to announce a price or release date for the Vive Focus, but the product will launch in China first before hopefully heading to the US and beyond.

Speaking of HTC's plans in the US, it is bad news for anyone expecting a Vive-branded standalone headset for Google's Daydream VR ecosystem. HTC says it has cancelled plans to bring such a headset to the US. Instead, Google says a Lenovo-branded standalone Daydream headset is still intended for the US.

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