Big. It’s weird. It curves around the wrist like a mouse that melts onto the watch strap. And HTC’s Vive brand may have finally hit the future of VR controllers.
HTC’s product announcements at CES 2022 didn’t include any new headsets — the company released its experimental, phone-connected Vive Flow late last year, and updates to its Pro PC and business-targeted standalone headsets in 2021 . But to me, the Vivek wrist tracker is perhaps even more interesting.
VR hasn’t made any major advances in controllers and inputs since the first wave of headsets in 2016. Most rely on controllers for what feels like a split-separated console gamepad, much like the Oculus Quest 2 uses. They’re fine for sports, but not so much for anything casual. Also, you have to find and grab those controllers. Hand tracking, which can be controller-free, isn’t as accurate and lacks physical feedback.
The Vive Wrist Tracker has the same type of six-degrees-of-freedom full motion tracking as most VR controllers. It can also be optionally attached to other objects, much like the Vive’s dedicated trackers that have been around for many years. In that sense, they can double as ways to track or add on to other things in VR.
HTC plans to use the wrist tracker for training situations where hands will be needed to hold or move things, like the current VR firefighting training program.
Meta hopes to move to wrist-based trackers for its future smart glasses, and the company formerly known as Facebook is developing its own watch, which can also connect to VR. As headsets get smaller, like the Vive Flow, and are probably designed to be worn anywhere, controllers need to be super portable, too. Combining the technology in wristbands and watches will benefit the most. HTC’s Vive Wrist Tracker is completely business-focused, and it doesn’t look as compact. But it may be the path that others begin to take as well.
Amid substantial improvements in visuals, tracking and overall performance, virtual reality technology has reached a fascinating juncture. Facebook, recently renamed Meta, has a new VR headset that will support mixed reality and face tracking — and will undoubtedly come with a hefty price tag.
Sony is releasing the PlayStation VR 2, which will work with the PlayStation 5, have new controllers and possibly have eye-tracking capabilities. Apple is expected to have some form of VR/AR headset by 2022 as well, but details about that remain a mystery. In the meantime, we might also see pop up headsets attached to phones like the HTC Vive Flow.
All that said, VR doesn’t have many practical commercial uses yet. VR technology is advancing rapidly, but right now, even the best VR headsets have the strongest footing in the gaming market. That’s right: This incredible technology is currently best used for playing video games. In fact, the Oculus Quest 2, which is an excellent home VR console, is one of my favorite places to play games.
If you’re a gamer looking to enter the VR space, the Quest 2 remains our top choice for the best VR headset experience, especially with the recent increase in storage to 128GB over the $299 model, Even though you need a Facebook account to use it. , The Quest 2 also remains a strong entry point for VR, which doesn’t look like it will become obsolete next year.
What’s even better, VR games are the best games ever. We’ve been impressed by Valve’s VR masterpiece Half-Life: Alex, Star Wars: Squadron on PC, and a lot of Oculus Quest and PlayStation VR games. But you still have to decide whether you want a headset that plugs into your PC, console, or a stand-alone option like the Quest (which can double as a PC headset). The best VR headset for you really depends on your needs and budget.
The world of VR technology is moving forward, and more changes will come. Companies like Qualcomm (which makes the chips inside most self-contained VR headsets, including the new Quest 2) are building new chips that herald a wave of better stand-alone headsets at lower prices—including those that plug into your phone. The more expensive and business-targeted Vive Focus 3 shows where more premium standalone VR headsets can develop.
Meanwhile, mobile phone-based VR headsets — like the Samsung Gear VR and Google Daydream — are basically dead. A good number of current iPhone, Android and VR app options don’t work as well with older mobile VR glasses. If smartphone-based VR does return, it’s more likely to be in the form of tiny headsets that plug into phones via USB-C for VR content, VR gaming, and other uses.
If you’re a PC gamer, a solid gaming PC-connected VR headset offers the most versatile collection of software for an immersive VR experience and lets you.