HTC’s Vive XR Elite headset promises to take you beyond VR gaming

 (HTC)
(HTC)

The price and constraints of virtual reality headsets plummeted when Meta (then known as Facebook) introduced the Oculus Quest in 2019. You didn’t need to hook up the device to a PC to play and it was a lot more affordable than what came before – the latest model, the Meta Quest 2 costs £400.

Now, VR companies are circling back towards high-end headsets despite signs that demand for the tech is flagging. Shortly after Meta released the Meta Quest Pro (for a whopping £1,499) HTC is heating up the competition in VR with its first standalone headset for consumers: the Vive XR Elite, announced at CES 2023 in Las Vegas

Like Meta’s premium device, the XR Elite goes beyond virtual reality to offer augmented reality (AR) and indeed, mixed-reality experiences. On top of its 4K display with a 90Hz refresh rate, that shows a 110-degree field of view, the headset also packs an RGB camera that lets you see your surroundings in colour. An additional four room-tracking camera sensors and depth sensor allow it to map virtual characters and objects into the real world.

Notably, the device has a modular design that lets you unhook its battery pack from the back of the headset (which offers two hours of play time on a single charge) and wear it like a normal pair of glasses with temples. The device will cost £1,299 in the UK and $1,099 in the US. It is available to pre-order directly from HTC and will ship in February with two wireless controllers.

HTC is also promising face- and eye-tracking accessories later this year in its bid to challenge Meta for the crown of most immersive headset. But, the launch comes as VR has shown troubling signs of waning consumer interest. Sales of VR headsets declined 2% last year in the US compared to 2021 to $1.1 billion (£910 million), according to CNBC.

 (You can remove the VR headset’s battery pack and wear it like normal glasses)
(You can remove the VR headset’s battery pack and wear it like normal glasses)

But that isn’t stopping Meta from pouring billions into its metaverse project. The company is said to be spending $10 billion a year developing tech like VR and AR, cash that is going toward building more lifelike avatars, sensory controllers, plus more than 300 games and apps.

To compete, HTC is promising 100 games and experiences for its new headset at launch, including Demeo, Hubris, Yuki, Maestro, Les Mills Body Combat, FigminXR, Unplugged and Finger Gun.