HTC Vive Pro Eye hands-on: first VR headset with eye tracking

HTC showed off a new consumer-friendly headset called the Vive Cosmo.                  HTC

HTC showed off a new consumer-friendly headset called the Vive Cosmo. HTC

There's a consensus that virtual reality is dead or dying.

As part of the latter's announcement, HTC Vive has revealed the Vive Reality System, designed as a new portal for users to enter virtual reality (VR) worlds. Other than that, the Vive Pro Eye has all the same specs that the Vive Pro does. Price has been a major obstacle as well as the space needed to accommodate a high-end device. Cosmos is usable both at home or on the go, according to HTC. It's called Vive Cosmos.

Eye tracking can also be used in place of handheld controllers. That's intentional as Cosmos won't rely on any external tracking sensors, which points strongly at onboard internal sensors. What's the resolution? Why do the handsets that come alongside light up, when you can't see them in the virtual world (although they do look pretty cool, like bracelets you'd wear in the Tron world).

Mozilla officially announced Firefox Reality as a browser for VR and AR headsets in April of a year ago. However, a glowing silhouette of a smartphone, is a strong hint in the direction HTC is headed.

The lack of clarity gave the impression that HTC still doesn't have a high-quality veneer with its launches - that it doesn't have a clear, defined strategy for getting its VR platform in the hands of millions of paying consumers.

The new headset builds integrated eye tracking into the Vive Pro, making foveated rendering a built-in experience rather than a pricey add-on.

HTC General Manager, Americas, Dan O'Brien, positioned the Eye hardware as a great move for enterprise users. I got to try out the game myself and the eye tracking worked pretty much as expected, though it was only available with the in-game menus - the gameplay itself still required a controller, which in this case was mounted on a plastic bat. That means that no matter what direction your eyes are looking on the screen, you will always be seeing a sharp image instead of having to turn your head and keep your eyes locked forward. Combined with the eye tracking tech, companies can track where consumers look the most to help develop products. The video does say it's "coming soon", and we know Vive Day, April 5, will mark the release of another of HTC's announcements from today, Viveport Infinity.

The Vive Cosmos will run the Vive Reality System, a redesign of the Vive software that will make moving between VR experiences more seamless than before.

Highlights include Origin, which is a rich virtual world for interacting with others, and Vive Lens, which lets you travel between virtual worlds easily. Firefox, for example, will be optimized for quick and easy searches and access to your favorite sites in virtual reality.

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