HTC’s next consumer virtual reality headset is the first PC VR hybrid

Vive has seemed to be devoting a lot of attention to the enterprise, but the company teased their new consumer VR headset called the Vive Cosmos at CES today. The positionally-tracked headset boasts tracked hand controllers and can be interestingly be powered via PC or “other methods,” making it the first in a new class of hybrid VR headsets.

The consumer market is going to be a tough one for HTC to hold onto. The company’s original HTC Vive garnered a lot of early excitement, but a series of aggressive price cuts from Facebook’s Oculus forced the company into a rough spot trying to find hardware margins in the less price-sensitive enterprise market. The company can’t really compete on the same playing field as Oculus as Facebook ships hardware at seemingly break-even prices, HTC’s move seems to therefore sell products that Facebook wouldn’t make in the first place.

What’s interesting is that HTC is relying on embedded inside-out tracking technology for this device, essentially removing SteamVR — Valve’s highly-accurate tracking tech — from the equation. This could be a big risk to HTC, as their main consumer market seems to be those looking to push high-end experiences and the alignment with Valve and SteamVR has been a big selling point there. The Vive Cosmos will run HTC’s new ViveRS operating system.

It’s unclear what kind of onboard compute will be available and how exactly the device is powered besides a PC connection.

What’s really going to matter is implementation and what kind of experiences without a PC. If the company can eek out performance that enables headset and controller positionally-tracked experiences on the device without a PC connection, they’d have something that could potentially be an interesting challenger to the $399 Oculus Quest, though it would assumedly operate at a much higher price point.

There’s still a lot we don’t know like specs, price or release date. More info will be available “in the coming months,” according to the company.