HTC Vive unveils standalone VR headset, collaboration app for the enterprise

The company's Vive Focus head-mounted display is now available in the U.S.; its Vive Sync app will arrive after beta testing gets under way in December.

Credit: HTC

HTC Vive has launched a handful of enterprise-focused products, with a new standalone “mobile” VR headset, developer tools and a collaboration app that promises to connect remote employees.

The Taiwanese company last week announced that the Vive Focus head-mounted display will now ship in the U.S., following a launch in China earlier this year.

The Vive Focus is a standalone headset that functions without a PC connection, unlike the company's tethered Vive Pro device. It features similar specs to the “professional-grade” Vive Pro, with 2880-x-1600-pixel resolution. Unlike other mobile VR headsets, the Vive Focus does not require a smartphone be inserted; it relies on embedded hardware – powered by Qualcomm's Snapdragon 835 chip – supports a 110-degree field of view and lasts up to three hours on a single charge.

HTC is targeting the device squarely at business customers and is likely to underwhelm consumers, in part because of its price tag. The Focus will sell for US$599 on its own, with two “Advantage” packages providing services such as two-year warranty, repairs and one-day response customer support, priced at $149.99 and $199.99.

That’s considerably higher than rival Oculus' Quest device, which ships next year with similar specs for $399 – though Facebook-owned Oculus appears to be less focused on selling to business.

Enterprise sales have been a growing focus for the VR industry, as consumer sales stagnate. Last year, Oculus announced a business-focused bundle for its Rift headset,with dedicated customer support as it sought to spur corporate adoption of its hardware.

Efforts to court large organizations appear to be paying off as VR technology finds a variety of corporate niches, such as connecting remote engineering or design staff and providing training tools for new employees. Walmart, for example recently revealed plans to deploy 17,000 Oculus Go headsets to more than 4,500 stores for staff training, one of the biggest rollouts of VR devices to date. Oculus claims that the initial pilot project, involving the Rift, resulted in 30% higher training satisfaction compared to other training methods and materials.

However, HTC currently leads the way in the enterprise market, according to Anshel Sag, an analyst at Moor Insights & Strategy. The launch of the Vive Focus headset will help HTC build on the presence already established thanks to the Vive and Vive Pro.

“I believe the Vive Focus is a more attractive product for enterprises than other standalone solutions because of HTC's reputation in VR today and the fact that they already have experience in supporting enterprise customers,” Sag said.

Along with the Focus headset, HTC announced its Vive Wave SDK , which lets developers create content for the Vivepoint app store. The company also unveiled Vive Sync, a VR collaboration app.

HTC billed Vive Sync as “an intuitive collaboration tool where internal teams can meet in a virtual shared space, improving communication and productivity amongst organizations.”

It is not the first company to identify the potential for VR collaboration – WorldViz and Spatial are among those selling software that creates virtual environments for staff such as engineers to communicate, while Cisco launched a pilot VR project for its Spark collaboration tool (now Webex Teams) last year. Meanwhile, Microsoft's mixed reality HoloLens lets companies such as Ford support virtual interactions between staff.

The Vive Sync supports up to 20 employees, and uses avatars to discuss and share information such as videos and 3D assets in real-time. The app also integrates with Microsoft Outlook to set up virtual meetings via email.

Vice Sync is not widely available yet. HTC's internal development team, 2 Bears Studio, will begin inviting users to take part in a pilot program next month. Pricing will be released at a later date, the company said.

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