The HTC Vive Focus 3 Is An Amazing VR Headset It Doesn’t Actually Want You To Buy

The HTC Vive Focus 3 is an incredible VR headset that it doesn’t really want you to buy

HTC doesn’t want you to confuse its new VIVE Focus 3 virtual reality headset with entry-level consumer gear like the Meta Quest 2.

Despite sharing some similar aesthetic philosophies, the two headsets couldn’t be more different. The Quest 2 is designed for the mainstream market, those who plan to have fun with virtual reality as a novelty in the comfort of their own home. That’s not where the VIVE Focus 3 lives.

The VIVE Focus 3 lives in commercial spaces and is designed to change the face of interactive spaces. Take Zero Latency for example – the Australian VR entertainment company recently signed a major deal with HTC to use VIVE Focus 3 headsets as the primary VR device in most of its major locations around the world. To hear HTC tell it, what tempted Zero Latency to get this deal done was the ability to remove the now well-known backpack technology that powers its interactive VR spaces.

For the uninitiated, Zero Latency is, in a way, what laser tag looks like in 2022. Zero Latency uses a large retail space full of real-world obstacles as its map. It uses a 1:1 replica of this map when building specialized game software so that when players don a VR headset and enter one of ZL’s virtual worlds, everything they see in front of them is reproduced in the real world. If you climb a ramp in the game, that ramp will be under your feet in real life, creating an extra layer of immersion. The trade-off for this has always been a “backpack” that players have to carry at all times. Inside the backpack, a powerful gaming laptop powers the whole experience.

The HTC VIVE Focus 3 does away with the backpack. Rather than transferring game data from player to player and running it in real time, companies like Zero Latency can now use individual headsets and stream game data over strong Wi-Fi. The headset is a one-piece unit with a removable battery in the headband. When a battery runs out, a staff member can quickly remove it, replace it with a freshly charged unit, and get the player back in motion.

Because the VIVE Focus 3’s ambitions are almost entirely commercial, there aren’t many games available for it. HTC wants to get headsets like this into the hands of customers who can get the most out of them — minus the kinds of consumers looking to show off VR to friends and family over Christmas.

What I felt during my short hands-on session with the device at PAX Aus was a device with a considerable amount of power behind it. Its dual 5K lenses (via a pair of 2.55-inch LCD panels running at 90Hz) created a very clear and smooth image, and its wide 120-degree FOV created an enveloping feel. Response times were fast, close to instantaneous. The fit was snug and uses magnets to hold adjustable components like the goggle pad in place, rather than tucking them into notches that could cause wear during regular removal. The headband carries most of the weight, although the headset was nicely balanced fore and aft. There’s none of the familiar downward pull of the Quest 2’s bungee headband, with the HMD wanting to follow the pull of gravity. Instead, it sits right next to the bridge of your nose, the weight hanging comfortably above your head.

As an all-in-one headset, the Focus 3 also does away with the VIVE’s famous beacons, beacon-like devices that had to be placed around a room to triangulate movement and position. Like the Quest 2, the VIVE Focus 3 uses an array of cameras on its fascia to “see” and track its surroundings. The replaceable battery and wireless streaming technology means it cuts the cord entirely, allowing a full range of motion within its pre-determined area.

And so here HTC finds itself in an odd position – with a ripper headset that would be the envy of most domestic manufacturers, unavailable at such a level. Even enthusiasts, who can look at this helmet and see the value it represents, on paper and in practice, are still staring through the proverbial candy store window wondering why they were abandoned.

Where most other hardware makers in the VR space are pushing for greater accessibility and competitive pricing in the home market, HTC’s interests seem to lie elsewhere. If he has indeed identified fertile market ground, others will soon follow suit.

Either way, your regular Zero Latency vacation session is about to get a whole lot easier on your back, and for that alone we have to be grateful.

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