When TechCrunch journalist John Biggs encountered HTC’s immersive VR goggle “Vive” in March, he was bowled over by the experience, even though the device was still in its development phase; now, news is breaking that the Taiwanese company plans to release the gadget to consumers later this year, with November being the most likely launch date.
Describing the gadget as “amazing” and a significant advance on the Facebook-owned Oculus Rift, Biggs wrote: “Do not misunderstand me: this is cutting-edge technology in the way, say the way Macintosh changed computing and the Motorola StarTAC changed telephony. It is both vitally important and yet amazingly nascent and I am looking forward to see where things are headed next. Until then, I can’t wait to play with this at home.”
Between now and the launch, HTC will be busily building its VR ecosystem and has confirmed that it’s spent around $10 million for a stake in open VR platform WEVR. This is going to be a crucial investment for HTC. It really needs to create a lot more content for Vive if it’s to be commercially viable: the device has to appeal to consumers who aren’t that into gaming. If it can do this, it’ll be an important selling point for potential purchasers.
HTC is in dire need of a commercial success. Over the last couple of years, its smartphone business has been lagging well behind rivals such as Apple and Samsung and even newcomer Xiaomi. Shares hit a ten-year low recently after its flagship M9 phone bombed (it simply wasn’t different enough from competitor devices and even from its own predecessors, the M8 and M7).
HTC still has a lot of progress to make if its VR project is to take off. Building enough good-quality (and sufficiently diverse) VR content will be key to gaining traction among a wide audience. It’s by no means an impossible quest: WEVR not only allows developers to create and publish VR content but also awards VR producers cash boosts of between $5,000 and $50,000 to support projects through its “OnWEVR” grant programme.
If HTC can make this work, the way we all consume digital content is about to be revolutionised.