At ChinaJoy today, HTC has just announced a little but very important news: the Vive Focus Plus will be able to connect to Viveport on PC and play all its games via Wi-fi streaming. All natively.
The concept of Wi-fi Streaming to play PC VR games with a mobile headset is absolutely not new. It is an idea that was born to let people experiment PC VR games even if they could afford only
It usually works this way:
- You connect the PC and the mobile headset to the same Wi-fi network (a 5Ghz Wi-fi is advised);
- You launch the streaming app server on PC;
- You launch the streaming app client on the mobile headset;
- At this point, Steam VR sees your mobile headset as a PC connected headset.
- You can launch your Steam games on PC and play them on your mobile headset. The content will be rendered on the PC and streamed to the mobile device.
Notice that I’m talking about Steam, because usually these streaming solution target SteamVR because Oculus is a closed system;
The results are nice, even if there are some visual artifacts and some latency. The process is anyway slightly complicated, it feels like a workaround.
Vive Focus Plus + Viveport streaming
Today HTC has unveiled an official streaming solution for Viveport on the Vive Focus Plus. Conceptually, it is not that different from the solutions listed above, but what is interesting is that for the first time, this is embedded into the official store of a major vendor.
There will be no need to launch external applications and external services because everything will be managed by Viveport. The Focus+ will be enabled directly by Viveport to play the PC VR games and things will happen in a way transparent for the user.
The full process is this one:
- You connect the PC and the mobile headset (Vive Focus Plus) to the same Wi-fi network (a 5Ghz Wi-fi is advised);
- You make Viveport recognize your Vive Focus Plus;
- You wear your Vive Focus Plus, and inside the main UI of the headset, you choose the “PC Stream” tab, select the game to play and start playing.
It is easy to notice that this process is far easier than the previous one listed above. And what is even more beautiful is that it is embedded into the UI of the headset. You use the same main menu of the Focus that you already use to start all the other mobile VR games, just selecting a new tab. No need to continuously remove and put on your headset again. It all feels natural, once the PC and the Focus are connected. This way you can launch a cool game like Superhot VR as if it were a native title of the Focus Plus… and play it without the hassle of a cable.
I don’t usually praise HTC for its UX… but this time, they had really a great idea. The user experience seems incredibly natural, and the Vive Focus Plus becomes this way the first device that can work natively both as a standalone device and a wirelessly connected PC headset. And considering that the Viveport Infinity subscription encompasses both PC VR and standalone VR, it is clear how HTC is continuously blending the line between PC and mobile virtual reality.
Streaming to Vive Focus Plus is expected in Q4 2019. HTC hopes to deploy it for October.
Notice that to use it, you must own a Viveport Infinity subscription. This will let you access in streaming on the Focus more than 1700+ PC VR titles at no additional cost!
Anyway, whatever content seen by Viveport can be used with this streaming feature... so, considering that you can launch Steam games with the Viveport launcher… you know what I mean
All of this seems overly cool… but since the feature has not been launched yet, we must wait for it to be released in the wild so that we can test it and see how much it works well. At the time of writing, no reviews are available yet. Be sure that in October I will immediately try it and review it…
A glimpse of the future
Of course, HTC’s dream is 5G streaming: the fact that the Vive Cosmos will be able to connect to a 5G phone and that Viveport Infinity looks a lot like the Netflix of VR, clearly shows what is the direction that the company wants to take. But 5G will take time to roll out and probably widespread 5G VR streaming will take some years. According to a presentation of Mister President Alvin Wang Graylin, it will be something that we can expect from 2021 on.
So for now, streaming from PC seems the key to empower standalone headsets with more computational power, to let players enjoy high-quality games with wonderful graphics. This explains the release of Viveport Streaming.
Other China Joy news
In the same event, HTC has also showcased again its 6 DOF Lite mode, that is able to let you walk inside 360 videos.
The news is that starting from next week, 6 DOF Lite will also support not only 360°, but also 180° VR videos. That’s cool, considering that there are various beatiful videos with this format… and it will be great being able to move your head inside them as well.
Then, it has teased new upcoming content:
- Open-world role-playing game Nostos and First-person shooter Stay Silent are coming to Viveport;
- Movie-inspired, Angry Birds VR: Isle of Pigs; the mission-driven RPG, Sairento VR; and the worldwide smash hit, Fruit Ninja VR
arecoming to Viveport M, that is to the Vive Focus Plus.
And now… let’s all go playing some cool VR game! Or, better… let’s go developing them… I’m still developing with my team the mixed reality fitness game HitMotion: Reloaded for the Vive Focus Plus! Are you curious to try it soon?
(Header image by HTC Vive)
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