HTC Vive: Vive Libraries will equip 110 libraries with VR headsets

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Vive Libraries programme will equip 110 libraries with VR headsets

HTC has announced its new Vive Libraries programme, which will bring virtual reality headsets to 110 libraries based across California and Nevada.

The initiative will allow visitors in the two states to access a wealth of information via the headsets - including dedicated educational apps packed with immersive content.

"Instead of card catalogs, banks of computers pipe broadband access to all the wonders of the Internet," said Chris Chin, executive director, Education VR Content at HTC Vive, said in a blog post. "I can start a 3D print job and roam freely with a checked-out laptop and Wi-Fi hotspot. And now, I can visit a local library and once again enter that gateway to infinite untold adventures simply by putting on an HTC Vive - and of course, all for free!"

HTC says it has developed and curated "over 35 of the most immersive educational and experiential VR apps" for library users, which will allow visitors to take virtual trips of famous landmarks, experience animals in their natural habitats, build virtual models for 3d printing, and much more.

"These amazing experiences span the best of Arts & Culture, Creativity, Design, History, STEM, Travel, and Wellness," Chin concluded, adding that the program will eventually expand to "more communities, states and countries around the world".


European VR startups can now sign up to Vive X

Virtual reality startups based in Europe can now sign up to HTC's Vive X program before 30th June, the company has announced, following the opening of its brand new Vive X hub in London.

The Vive X program is HTC's global VR/AR accelerator program, designed to provide young VR companies with education, investment and mentorship - as well as to grow the overall virtual reality ecosystem. The new London HQ becomes the sixth Vive X location to open, joining locations in Taipei, Shenzhen, San Fancisco and Tel Aviv, as well as two in Beijing.

"London will act as a hub for startups across Europe (not just UK), a region that we believe has a huge amount of talent and several clusters of innovation around the core technologies of interest to Vive X (ie. VR, AR, AI, 5G)," Dave Haynes, director of Vive X Europe, announced in a blog post.

"We're especially interested in hearing from companies working on B2B and enterprise applications, a market that we believe European startups are especially well placed to address."

Following a successful meetup in London, HTC said it also plans to visit the "thriving hubs" of Helsinki, Paris, Madrid, Berlin and Amsterdam in June to raise awareness of the program.

VR/AR startups can sign up to Vive X before 30 June.

HTC Vive: All you need to know

Anyone with half an eye on the tech scene during the last couple of years will have noticed that virtual reality is the hot new trend. Numerous companies including Google, Samsung, OnePlus and more have thrown their hats into the ring, but thus far, the HTC Vive appears to be the most impressive.

The HTC Vive is one of the first true VR headsets, and arguably the most impressive. While the Oculus Rift and PlayStation VR both offer immersive virtual reality experiences, the HTC Vive is the only one that offers ‘room-scale’ VR.

This means that the HTC Vive will track your movement within an area of up to 15ft by 15ft, allowing users to freely walk around the virtual environment. Thanks to the motion controllers bundled with the Vive, one can even reach out and pick up virtual objects.

The HTC Vive is incredibly impressive, but impressive technology requires equally impressive hardware. Similar to the Oculus Rift, the HTC Vive requires a top-end gaming PC in order to properly run.

The recommended specifications provided by HTC include an Nvidia GTX 970 or AMD Radeon R9 290 graphics card, along with at least 4GB of RAM and an Intel Core-i5 4590 or AMD FX 8350 CPU.

On top of these undeniably steep hardware requirements, users are expected to stump up almost £750 for the headset itself. As Jonathan Wagstaff, UK & Ireland country manager at tech analyst firm Context, explains, this may need to change before the HTC Vive can fully succeed as a mass-market commercial device. “Driving down the cost of VR-ready hardware will help drive both the adoption of HMDs and grow the already burgeoning PC gaming market,” he says.

Suitability for business & launch of Vive BE

However, while high technical requirements and an expensive cost of entry may prove a barrier to consumer adoption, the HTC Vive faces no such problems in a business environment. In the enterprise, the budget for IT systems is much higher, with business workstations frequently running to more than £1000.

This fact is not lost on HTC, and the company is actively courting the enterprise market. Earlier in the year, the company launched the Vive Business Edition in order to capitalise on the enterprise applications of immersive VR.

As well as all the standard features of the consumer edition, the Vive BE also includes business-specific features such as a dedicated support line and a 12-month limited warranty.

In fact, while gaming is currently the most immediately obvious application for the Vive, there are numerous key verticals that could benefit from the use of virtual reality technology, including healthcare, education, and more.

Virtual reality environments are not totally new, Wagstaff notes, but added that “previous price-points (in the tens of thousands of dollars) have meant that this was restricted to large research institutions. Now with HMDs retailing at a fraction of the cost it is democratising the usage of devices.

“Other major potential markets include corporate training and retail,” he says. “There are already companies out there such as Attensi – a member of our VR Research Group – who are using HMDs to develop training programmes for retailers.”

Due to the high requirements of PC VR, its growing popularity – both in commercial sectors and as a business tool – is forecast to have a big impact on the channel. While games are pre-configured to run on VR, explained AMD’s industry alliance manager for workstation graphics, Rob Jamieson, business applications currently are not. “People need somebody to hold their hand,” he says. “That’s where the channel comes in.”

Manufacturers have already started bringing out hardware that is explicitly optimised for VR. Intel’s new Broadwell ‘Extreme’ chips are designed with VR content creation as one of the primary use-cases, while AMD is using its Polaris architecture to release the VR-capable Radeon RX 480 at a much more affordable price point than other VR-ready GPUs.

Currently, most enterprises that are exploring VR have opted for cheaper mobile VR headsets like the Samsung Gear VR or Google Cardboard. This allows companies to begin experimenting with the technology, without risking large amounts of IT budget on a system they might not use.

However, while mobile VR is cheap, the level of quality offered by headsets like the HTC Vive is an order of magnitude higher. In particular, the ability to fully inhabit and immerse yourself in a virtual environment still gives PC VR devices like the HTC Vive a distinct edge.

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HTC Vive falls behind rival Oculus Rift in latest Steam survey

The latest Steam hardware usage survey has found that the Oculus Rift headset has overtaken the HTC Vive for the first time.

The Oculus Rift came in at 47.31% of virtual reality headset users on the Steam platform while 45.38% were found to be using HTC's Vive headset, according to February's findings.

Steam users are required to opt-in to the platform's survey, which then determines the hardware a user is running on their system. This factor means the newly-established 2% lead that the Rift has gained may not necessarily be reflected in overall market share statistics.

However, the Oculus Rift has steadily been closing the gap on its rival on the platform's monthly findings, with the headset closing the gap on the HTC Vive to just 0.9% in January.

Various factors for this change have been touted by industry observers, chief among them the Oculus Rift's notably lower price of £399 compared to the HTC Vive's £599 price tag.

In terms of other headsets on the market, Windows Mixed Reality rose slightly from 5.17% market share in January to 5.36% in February, while the Oculus Rift DK2 comprised 1.95% of users, up from 1.78%.

19/02/2018: HTC rules out Vive-only titles

There are currently no plans for HTC to release games that run exclusively on its Vive platform, the company has said, ruling out tactics used by rival platforms Oculus and Playstation.

In an interview with Wareable, Joel Breton, vice president of global VR content at Vive, explained that the firm does not want to hurt gamers for selecting a certain virtual reality headset.

"We don't want to use content as a weapon and block out people on other platforms from playing the content we create or help bring to market," he told the website.

"We look at the whole VR market as our playground for content, and we certainly want to make a great Vive version. As far as providing it to other platform players, we don't want to punish them for choosing a different platform."

Breton added that there won't be any Vive exclusives in the near future as HTC doesn't "feel like that's where the market's at" - but he did keep the door open to the possibility in future.

"Maybe down the line in a few years, certainly we'll keep our eyes open on the market and see if it makes sense then, but at this early stage of the market we just don't feel like its good for us as a revenue-creating business or for our developers, who we're trying to help create revenue," he told Wareable.

The VP also said HTC will look at titles on a case-by-case basis to determine whether they would take to a rival platform such as PS VR.

07/02/2018 - New Steam survey shows fall in HTC Vive market share

The HTC Vive's market share has dropped by 5.3% since August 2017, according to the latest Steam survey, with the headset now on a level pegging with the Oculus Rift as a result.

As reported by, the findings revealed the Vive is used by 46.96% of Steam survey participants – whilst the Oculus Rift totalled 46.09%.

Behind the two front-runners, Microsoft's Windows mixed reality offering totalled 5.17% of those surveyed, whilst just 1.78% were gaming with the Oculus Rift DK2.

The results could be a cause for concern for HTC, with the Oculus Rift having steadily closed an 8.3% gap in market share since August 2017, reports.

However, the survey does also show that 0.2% of all Steam users now own a HTC Vive, an increase of 0.09% since the month prior. The Oculus Rift also stands at 0.2%, with the same monthly growth of 0.09%.

As the website notes, the levelling-out of market shares between the two rival headsets may be a result of the Oculus Rift's significantly lower retail price. The VR headset is currently on sale for £399 thanks to permanent price cuts – a whole £200 cheaper than the HTC Vive (£599).

25/01/2018 - HTC and the World Economic Forum to drive forward “VR/AR For Impact” project

HTC Vive has partnered with the World Economic Forum (WEF) to further push the positive uses of virtual reality through its 'VR/AR For Impact' Initiative.

First announced at WEF last year, the $10 million VR/AR For Impact program set out to leverage new VR/AR content and technology in order to create positive change in the world.

The project has been designed to support the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals and now, in collaboration with VR/AR leaders in the UN and the WEF, the collaboration will seek to break further new ground using virtual reality.

As a core member, HTC Vive announced that the firm will continue to design and create experiences that "foster and champion the use of Virtual and Augmented Reality to educate and empower humanity".

"The challenges our world faces today have never been greater, and humanity needs a clearer understanding and guidance to help solve global issues," said Cher Wang, Chairwoman and CEO at HTC.

"Unlike any other medium, Virtual Reality is able to immerse the global audience in literally any experience, and can help us learn, empathize and transform the world. VR/AR for Impact is a unique way of driving critical awareness toward problems and solutions facing mankind."

Six VR/AR For Impact experiences are on display this week at WEF 2018 - including the critically acclaimed TREE VR experience that allows users to experience the stark reality of deforestation.

06/12/2017 - HTC Vive increases percentage lead over Oculus Rift

The HTC Vive has widened the gap between itself and the Oculus Rift in terms of headset usage on Steam, according to the platform's latest survey results.

Steam's November figures reveal the Vive has increased its usage percentage to 49.5% – up from 48.76% in October. By comparison, the Oculus Rift fell to 46.03% from its figure of 47.61% last month.

The HTC Vive's increase marks something of a change in fortune for the device, following a period in which the Oculus Rift had continued to close the gap.

As noted by UploadVR, the usage hike could be the result of increased sales for November – which included the notorious Black Friday sales event. As part of the event, many retailers offered the Vive headset bundled together with a free Vive Deluxe Audio Strap and a pre-order copy of Doom VFR.

Elsewhere, HTC has also confirmed that Valve remains committed to bringing further titles to virtual reality, despite the developer seemingly going quiet on the subject in recent months.

In an interview with Glixel, Dan O'Brien, Vive general manager for the Americas, confirmed that Valve continues to work on delivering on its February promise of three new full VR games.

"I manage the relationship with Valve," O'Brien said. "I meet with Valve weekly to talk about everything from what's happening on new content launching to new product launches to new features and functions.

"They are very committed; they are still committed to delivering on that promise."


HTC announces Vivie Tracker bundles for consumers

HTC has announced the arrival of Vive Tracker bundles for consumers, allowing users to track peripheral accessories in virtual reality for the first time.

Previously only available to developers, the Vive Tracker can be attached to any object in order to accurately replicate its motion in VR. Now, Vive users can get their hands on the device for $99 -- or purchase three new peripheral accessory bundles.

The first, which partners a new Hyper Blaster light gun accessory with Duck Season, is available to pre-order now for $149.

For the same price, HTC has also announced a Racket Sports Set, which offers custom moulded and weighted paddles rackets alongside a redemption code for Virtual Sports.

The Hyper Blaster is compatible with six different titles at launch and the company is working with 10 more developers to expand its compatibility, HTC said. Similarly, the Racket Sports Set can also be used with six titles at launch, whilst another five are expected "by end of year".

The TrackStraps bundle is also available to purchase now, allowing Vive users to track their bodies in VR by attaching the strap the required body part. TrackStraps are available immediately for $25 and includes a redemption code for Redfoot Bluefoot Dancing on Steam.

"With Vive Tracker, we've already seen the tremendous tools and experiences that the development community has created and unleashed into VR," said Daniel O'Brien, US general manager at Vive, said. "As we launch Tracker to consumers, we've lined up a number of developer and hardware partners that are committed to making VR on Vive more immersive than ever before.

"The Vive Tracker opens up a whole new set of experiences that can take advantage of full body tracking and a number of peripherals that set VR experiences on Vive apart."


New VIVE Arts programme brings virtual reality to the arts

HTC has announced the launch of Vive Arts, a new global VR programme designed to change the way the world creates and interacts with the arts.

The initiative will aid the development of virtual reality installations in galleries and institutions around the world, HTC says, which will in turn allow both creators and audiences alike to harness the power of VR to further education in the arts.

Since its launch, Vive's creators have already struck up a number of partnerships with well-known global cultural centres around the VR device - including London's Royal Academy of Arts, Taipei's National Palace Museum, the French Museum of Natural History, Washington DC's Newseum and the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg.

The device will also feature in London's Tate Modern's upcoming 'Modigliani' exhibition (opening 23 November), which will provide visitors with a unique look at the artist through the medium of VR.

"With the launch of Vive Arts, we are driving Virtual Reality's influence in art and providing access to our world's cultural heritage. We are empowering artists to create, and consumers to experience and interpret, art and culture in new ways," explained Joel Breton, vice president at Vive Studios.

"We are thrilled for the next Vive Arts' project with Tate Modern, and support their mission to increase the public's enjoyment and understanding of international modern and contemporary art."

From today, Vive users can also access more than a dozen pieces of Vive Arts content through the Viveport app store.


New standalone could be called the ‘Vive Focus’

The upcoming Vive standalone headset could be named the ‘Vive Focus’after HTC submitted new trademark applications for use of the name.

Discovered by Dutch website LetsGoDigital (via Upload VR), the documents describe a ‘head-mounted display for computer simulated reality’ carrying the Vive Focus name – with one being from the European Union Intellectual Property Office and the other from the United States Patent and Trademark Office.

HTC has not officially commented on the name or filings - but the standalone Vive is the only known headset the Taiwanese firm currently has in the pipeline, Upload VR notes.

Powered by Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 835 processor, the so-called Vive Focus will run on the Daydream mobile VR platform from Google and will offer 6 degrees of freedom (6DOF) tracking, as well as 3DOF motion controls.

There is currently no release date for HTC’s new standalone headset – but the company previously revealed in a blog post that it would be available “later this year”.

A standalone Vive headset will also be released in China but will not run on Google’s Daydream platform.

“Vive’s standalone VR headset will provide a deeper and more immersive portable VR experience than ever before,” HTC said.


Could $1.1billion sale boost HTC’s VR business?

Google and HTC have announced an agreement that will see the Alphabet company pay $1.1billion in exchange for the team that developed the Pixel smartphone.

The move will see HTC staff move across to Google, with the received funds set to be injected into its other ventures – such as the Vive virtual reality headset.

The deal will also allow the Taiwanese firm to place a greater focus on augmented reality and AI, whilst its smartphone division will also benefit, the company said.

"This agreement is a brilliant next step in our longstanding partnership, enabling Google to supercharge their hardware business while ensuring continued innovation within our HTC smartphone and VIVE virtual reality businesses,” said Cher Wang, CEO and chairwoman of HTC, in a press release.

“We believe HTC is well positioned to maintain our rich legacy of innovation and realize the potential of a new generation of connected products and services."

HTC also said the move will allow the firm to reduce operating expenses by around 30-40 percent, whilst streamlining its product portfolio and offering greater flexibility in terms of company finances.

The transaction is expected to be completed by early 2018, subject to regulatory approvals and customary closing conditions.


HTC could sell off its Vive division

HTC could be considering selling off its Vive virtual reality division - or even the whole company - according to a recent report.

The Taiwanese business is currently working with an adviser as it considers strategic avenues, according to Bloomberg sources. These avenues include a potential Vive sale, and HTC has even held talks with tech giants such as Google over the matter, the sources said.

While its Vive arm may be vulnerable, a sale of the entire company is the least likely option, one person said, as its various divisions may not prove beneficial for a single buyer.

As Bloomberg reports, however, HTC is yet to make a final decision on the matter - and may even opt not to sell at all.

Following a downturn in fortunes for its smartphone division, HTC placed a greater focus on virtual reality as a way to grow the business and enter new markets.

The Vive was born as a result of this, with the company shipping over 190,000 headsets in Q1 2017, analysts at IDC found. More recently, HTC slashed $200 off its price in a bid to expand its user base.


UPS to train student drivers using VR headsets

Package delivery giant UPS are to begin using VR headsets such as the HTC Vive to train new drivers, the company has announced.

From September, students at the firm's US Integrad training facilities will don the headsets and navigate through an ultra-realistic, 360-degree cityscape created by the company's IT experts.

Employees undertaking the course will be required to verbally identify potential road hazards, UPS says, including parked vehicles, pedestrians and oncoming traffic.

"Virtual Reality offers a big technological leap in the realm of driver safety training," said UPS chief information and engineering officer Juan Perez.

"VR creates a hyper-realistic streetscape that will dazzle even the youngest of our drivers whose previous exposure to the technology was through video games."

The scheme will replace the global firm's current method of using touchscreen devices to teach new drivers about road hazards and general safety when out on the job.

To begin with, the VR training will only be provided for package delivery trucks - but UPS says it is exploring both virtual reality and augmented reality training methods for tractor trailer drivers and other duties.

"This training is foundational, and Virtual Reality brings it to life," said Jeanne Lawrence, UPS Integrad expansion director. "VR complements real-world training in a way that deeply engages our employees in the UPS Integrad curriculum."


HTC announces all-in- one Vive Standalone for China

HTC has announced the Vive Standalone, a new all-in- one Vive headset that will launch first in China

before being available in western markets.

Revealed at last week’s ChinaJoy entertainment expo and conference, the wireless Vive Standalone will not require tethering to a PC or smartphone to operate unlike current models.

HTC is yet to reveal the devices’ full specs but the headset will sport Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 835 processor and will ship with a three degrees-of- freedom (3DoF) controller.

“China is the leading mobile market in the world today, and has the momentum to lead the global VR market as well,” said HTC’s Alvin Graylin (via The Irish News).

“Partnering with Qualcomm to deliver an easy to use and more affordable Vive VR system will

enable us to make premium standalone VR widely accessible to the masses in China.”

According to VRfocus, a company representative has confirmed that the Vive Standalone is the same

head mounted display (HMD) that was announced at Google I/O back in May.

The difference between the headsets will be their software distribution, with the Chinese market receiving apps through the Viveport store and western users downloading via Google Daydream.

The HTC representative attributed the reason for this difference to Google’s limited reach in China,

VRfocus reports.


Google launches Blocks for HTC Vive

Google has launched its new 3D modelling program Blocks for the HTC Vive, enabling users to create beautiful 3D models in virtual reality.

Designed to be accessible for both beginners and seasoned creators alike, Blocks offers up an experience that feels "more like playing with children's blocks" than working with traditional 3D modelling software, Google says.

"Starting with a simple set of shapes, a colour palette, and an intuitive set of tools, you're able to naturally and quickly create almost anything you can imagine, from a piece of watermelon to a whole forest scene," Jason Toff, VR Group Product Manager at Google, announced in a blog post.

Blocks also allows users to export their creations as an OBJ to place in other augmented reality and virtual reality apps, or share their models online with other creators.

The modelling software also ties in smoothly with Google's Tilt Brush painting app, meaning creators can import their 3D models into the software and paint them.

Google Blocks is free to download now for the HTC Vive and Oculus Rift.


Mario Kart set for VR debut at Tokyo arcade

Mario Kart GP is receiving a VR makeover for the Vive at a Tokyo VR arcade, it has been announced.

Currently being developed by Bandai Namco, Mario Kart Arcade GP VR will debut at Tokyo's VR Zone Arcade in Shinjuku - giving users a chance to experience the title using HTC's Vive headsets.

Players will control their virtual vehicle using arcade-style seats, whilst motion sensors will allow users to throw in-game objects by moving their arms.

"The course is filled with the well-known Mario Kart traps and tricks," the game's description reads, as reported by VR Focus. "Dodge giant Piranha Plants and Thwomps, leap over huge ravines, and watch out for [Bowser] as he tries to get in your way..."

The release is the first official Nintendo title to hit the Vive platform but, whilst the game has been confirmed on the arcade's official website, the developers are yet to release further details.

Meanwhile, Duck Season - a modern reworking of the NES favourite Duck Hunt - will also be making its way to the HTC Vive "very soon", according to Engadget.

The release will see the arrival of an updated version of the NES light gun accessory made popular by the classic NES original, which will utilise the Vive tracker to replicate its movement in VR.

Duck Season elaborates on the original NES game, offering up a more detailed plot, seven different endings and seven additional mini-games. There is also a "secret subplot" that can only be discovered by piecing together a "handful of hidden clues", the website reports.


HTC Vive will go wireless in 2018

A wireless version of the HTC Vive will debut in early 2018, thanks to a new partnership between HTC and Intel.

Demonstrating a prototype of the headset at Comutex in Taipei this week, Intel explained that the new Vive will utilise the company's WiGig technology, which is able to handle large amounts of data without any restricting cables.

"We will be working together to leverage Intel's WiGig technology to create a VR accessory that allows Vive customers to get high-fidelity, low latency, immersive VR experiences without the wire," confirmed Gregory Bryant, senior vice president at Intel.

In a separate blog post, HTC said that the wireless headset will offer latency speeds of under 7ms thanks to WiGig working in the "interference-free" 60GHz band.

"The WiGig technology, based on 802.11ad standard, works solely in the interference- free 60GHz band, and enables high throughput and low latency in both directions, from the PC to HMD and from HMD to PC," HTC explained. "This means pristine video quality with <7ms latency in any environment, supporting multiple users sharing the same space."

Intel will have a proof of concept model on display at the E3 gaming event in Los Angeles, which takes place between 13 June and 15 June.


New Vive accessory will track eye movements in VR

Beijing-based start-up 7invensun has announced a new a new pair of lenses for the HTC Vive which will track eye movements when wearing the headset.

The add-on - named aGlass - is due to go on sale as a development kit in China this month for around $220 (£170) and is expected to ship internationally some time in Q3 2017.

According to Road to VR, the lenses attach to the inside of the Vive and connect via the headset's extra USB port. Each lens implements a series of infrared LEDs that light up the user's eyes, while a near-eye camera tracks the eye's movements in real-time.

The accessory is designed to enable a technique called foveated rendering, which mimics the natural focus of the eye in virtual reality. Users will see the space they're looking at as clear and in-focus -- whilst the periphery will have a blurred, lower-resolution image.

By only leaving the centre of the visual field in full-focus, the aGlass will help keep processing power down and could even allow less-powerful PCs to run VR programs more efficiently.

The accessory could also pave the way for corrective lenses for users that usually wear glasses -- meaning a possible end to wearing regular glasses underneath the Vive headset, Road to VR added.

20/04/2017: HTC Vive may receive Facebook Spaces support

Facebook's virtual reality venture Spaces may be opened up to third-party headsets in the future, according to the company's social VR product manager Michael Booth.

In an interview with Upload VR, Booth said that Spaces will not be exclusive to the Facebook-owned Oculus and will "ideally" be compatible with any six degrees of freedom (6DOF) VR system.

The VR chief even told the website that competitors such as the HTC Vive, PlayStation VR and a host of upcoming rivals were "fair game" in relation to the Spaces platform.

"Right now we're launching on Rift and Touch because we think it's the best in class for VR hardware," Booth told Upload VR. "We're trying to build an experience assuming that this stuff is ubiquitous in five years.

"At that time I believe all VR will be 6DOF head and hands. I gravitated to that to start with. When you have that level of interaction you forget that you're in VR. Plus all your body language comes in."

Booth did not offer a date as to when support for the additional headsets will be offered - but did say Facebook Spaces will "change rapidly" once its "true beta" launches.


HTC discounts Vive headset for one-year anniversary

HTC has marked the Vive's one-year anniversary today with its first-ever discount for the VR headset.

For one day only, UK customers can purchase the Vive for a reduced price of £589 as opposed to the usual £689. In the US, consumers can get their hands on the Vive for $700 (down from $800).

HTC also launched its new Viveport Subscription service on the same date, which the company says will offer Vive owners a "new way to navigate" the growing VR app marketplace.

For just £7/$7 per month, users can receive unlimited access to any five titles from HTC's Viveport store - with the option to rotate these apps each month. Users can register at the Viveport website to take advantage of a one-month free trial of the service.

HTC will also offer Vive Studios' VR action game Arcade Saga as a free download on Wednesday, redeemable via the Viveport website or desktop app.

"We're surprised every day by what our fans and developers have brought to VIVE in its first year," said HTC Vive's Daniel O' Brien. "We're astounded by the impact that VR is making in the home and in the enterprise, and we want to celebrate Vive's first birthday by giving a bit back to our fans and by introducing Vive to more people."


MakeVR launches for the HTC Vive

Vive Studios and Sixense have announced the arrival of MakeVR, a professional 3D modelling studio for the HTC Vive.

An industry standard CAD engine, the app utilises the HTC Vive's room-scale VR to provide users with a sizable and immersive design space.

Developer Sixense says the software has been designed with users of all ages and skill levels in mind - with intuitive two-handed gestures allowing for "natural interaction" with 3D geometry.

Creators can also export their designs to other CAD programs or 3D printers.

"MakeVR is a first-of-its-kind advanced creativity app for VR," said Joel Breton, head of Vive Studios. "We recognize how the intuitive and immersive environment of VR will revolutionise digital modeling.

"We worked with Sixense to create MakeVR as an accessible yet advanced creativity app for Vive where room-scale VR gives creators a virtual workshop, and the use of natural physical motions brings unprecedented expressiveness and intuitiveness to object design."

The app is available now from Viveport for $19.99, whilst HTC and Sixense say professional edition MakeVR Pro will arrive sometime later in the year.

Meanwhile, HTC has also announced the release of its wireless trackers to developers. Available for $99 each via the Vive website, the puck-shaped devices can be attached to accessories in order to track them in virtual reality.


Mobile VR device in pipeline

HTC is planning to release a mobile VR device before the end of the year.

As reported by CNET, the device will allow users to connect to their smartphone on the move, eliminating the need to use a high-spec PC - as is the case with the current HTC Vive.

Speaking at the company's U series launch in Singapore, Chia-lin Chang, president of global sales at HTC, said: "We have a good plan in terms of combining mobility with VR.

"Vive is very top end, and in the coming months you'll see our plans in terms of mobility and VR - and it's not a phone slapped in a headset. It'd be a different thing."

The mobile device will be compatible with the HTC U Ultra, but no further details are currently known. It is expected, however, that the new mobile device will cost significantly less than the HTC Vive.

Meanwhile, HTC Vive has partnered with the China National Tourism Administration (CNTA) to launch a new VR travel experience.

The 'China VR Tourism Cloud Data Service Platform' will be powered by Vivepaper - which allows for interaction with paper and magazines through QR codes - and will make China the first to integrate VR into its tourism industry.

"As the world's largest travel market, China will now become the world's first market to systematically apply VR technology to its tourism industry," said Hongye Xin, Deputy Director of the Information Center at the CNTA.

"In the next couple of years, we expect to see The China VR Tourism Cloud Data Service Platform take root in tens of thousands of offline stores nationwide, thus introducing a brand-new VR travel experience to consumers across the country."


HTC adds Vive Video to VR headset

HTC has brought video to the Vive headset.

The app brings a customisable theatre-like experience to the VR device, with support for 2D, 3D, 180 and 360-degree footage. Vive Video also offers a up a variety of features to enable users to get the most from their videos and VR.

"Virtual reality adds a delightful, immersive element to watching videos regardless of the format you choose," HTC said in a blog post announcing the app.

When viewing 2D video, the software allows users to resize the screen to fill their field of view and adjust the image to their gaze as required. Ambient lighting can also be turned off for "a truly cinematic experience," HTC explained.

"Things get more exciting with 180° and 360° screen modes," it added, "where, thanks to digital tracking, you can move and look around in the virtual environment while the content adapts to your viewing perspective."

Vive Video is available now from Viveport - with each download also receiving a preview of award-winning VR animation INVASION! (from the director of Madagascar).


HTC confirms new Vive base stations

Valve has confirmed the development of new SteamVR Tracking/Lighthouse base stations, stating they should arrive sometime "later this year".

The company initially revealed its plans at Steam Dev Days in 2016 and Valve programmer Joe Ludwig has now confirmed the refresh in a Q&A session on Reddit.

Responding to one user's question regarding automated manufacturing, Ludwig said: "The controller production line is still going strong and churning out controllers. The next line we're building is for the base stations we talked about at Dev Days.

"Using automation allows us to keep production local, which means our employees can be much more hands-on with the manufacturing process. That works a lot better with how Valve works, so we'll probably keep doing that going forward."

As Road To VR notes, the upcoming base stations will move away from the dual-rotor design of the current iteration, instead using a single rotor. This new rotor will sport two diagonal sweeps that lean in opposite directions - as opposed to one for horizontal speed and another for vertical.

According to Valve, the new design will reduce the weight, noise, power consumption and price, whilst also providing the same precise tracking information as current base stations.


Wireless upgrade for the Vive

A series of upgrades are coming for the Vive in 2017.

HTC announced the new accessories at this year's Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas this week - with wireless capability being the most anticipated.

The wireless update comes courtesy of the company's partnership with TPCAST, reports Unlocked, and will sport a 6,000mAh battery, which will power approximately two hours of use.

The upgrade will be available to pre-order sometime later this quarter for $249, HTC announced, with Q2 2017 earmarked for delivery to customers.

Alongside the wireless refresh, the company also announced the Vive Tracker, a small accessory designed to make peripherals come to life in virtual reality. The Tracker can be attached to a range of items, with HTC demoing the device on peripherals such as baseball bats, gloves and guns.

Unlocked adds that the Tracker is 10cm wide, and includes a universal screw for easy attachment and will last up to six hours at a time.

The third upgrade comes in the form of a new Audio Strap that will arrive with built-in adjustable headphones and provide an altogether more comfortable audio experience.

HTC also announced that the Viveport app store will soon have a 'Subscription' option, allowing users to download a number of apps in return for a monthly fee.


Google Earth arrives for HTC Vive

Google Earth VR is now available for HTC Vive headset owners.

The app, which can be downloaded from the Steam Store, enables users to fly over cities, venture up mountains, and even journey into space.

Virtual tourists can also take tours of famous landmarks, allowing for easy discovery of the most fascinating places on Earth.

Announcing the app in a blog post, Mike Podwal, product manager at Google VR, said: "Today, we are introducing Google Earth VR as our next step to help the world see the world.

"At 196.9 million square miles, we know the world is pretty big, so we've made it easy to find great places to visit," he added. "Earth VR comes with cinematic tours and hand-picked destinations that send you to the Amazon River, the Manhattan skyline, the Grand Canyon, the Swiss Alps, and more."

Google Earth VR is expected to arrive on other VR platforms next year.


New Vive headset reports emerge

A second HTC Vive headset could be on its way, according to the latest reports.

Despite the Vive having not been on the market for very long, the HTC Vive 2 - codenamed Oasis - is reportedly being developed by the company.

Tech Radar reports that the codename is derived from Ernest Cline's novel 'Ready Player One' - after a "metaverse that players inhabit" within a virtual reality world.

The news originates from reliable HTC leaker @LlabTooFeR, who tweeted: "HTC is working [on a] refreshed Vive headset... Internal codename is Oasis."

Similar reports also emerged back in September when Bulgarian company Quark VR said it was working with HTC on a new prototype headset, revealing that the device will utilise wireless connectivity.

Elsewhere, Rikard Steiber, SVP of virtual reality at HTC, has told Tech Crunch that the company is set to upgrade its business edition Vive hardware.

According to the site, Steiber revealed that enhanced arcade-style peripheral devices are part of the company's VR arcade strategy in China and Taiwan. He stated that these locations will also eventually see additions of "enhanced" Vive headsets with "form factor updates" - adding that they are "going to evolve."

"This is year one as far as this set of virtual reality experiences go," Steiber told Tech Crunch. "I think with the amount of innovation going on in the space and the amount of players coming into the space, I do think that innovation cycles will be sort of annual."


HTC expands Viveport

HTC is expanding its range of virtual reality services, announcing Viveport M for mobile and Viveport Arcade.

Through the new Viveport M hub, Android users will be able to access a wide range of VR and 360 degree apps through their smartphones.

The store is currently open to developers only as a closed beta - but the company says Viveport M will be released to the public "later this year".

The company has also revealed Viveport Arcade - an offline accompaniment to the PC version of Viveport that provides a VR content management and sales platform.

The company says the service makes it easier for VR arcade operators "to legally acquire the most compelling VR content available," whilst enabling operators and developers alike to share revenue "accurately".

HTC also hopes the platform will allow developers to reach those that "haven't yet bought a Vive for their home".

A number of Viveport Arcade pilot programs have already begun in the last two months - and HTC says hundreds of gaming centres, amusement parks and karaoke bars will soon be added.

Alvin W. Graylin, China Regional President of Vive, HTC, said: "Compelling content is the life blood of the burgeoning VR industry, but making great content isn't easy or cheap.

"By expanding Viveport into mobile and offline channels, we are exponentially expanding the user base and revenue opportunities for VR developers around the world.

"This will give them the funds they need to not only survive but prosper, encouraging the creation of more exciting content."

Viveport M and Viveport Arcade will debut in China later this year, followed by a worldwide release.

Daniel Todd

Dan is a freelance writer and regular contributor to ChannelPro, covering the latest news stories across the IT, technology, and channel landscapes. Topics regularly cover cloud technologies, cyber security, software and operating system guides, and the latest mergers and acquisitions.

A journalism graduate from Leeds Beckett University, he combines a passion for the written word with a keen interest in the latest technology and its influence in an increasingly connected world.

He started writing for ChannelPro back in 2016, focusing on a mixture of news and technology guides, before becoming a regular contributor to ITPro. Elsewhere, he has previously written news and features across a range of other topics, including sport, music, and general news.