HTC’s Vive Focus 3 update could free arcades from VR backpacks

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HTC is adding some big updates to its Vive Focus 3 virtual reality headset, with the goal of making it better for big free-roaming multiplayer VR games.

The Vive Focus 3, a non-consumer-oriented $ 1,300 wireless headset, is adding a new feature called Location Based Entertainment or LBE mode. LBE mode greatly expands the tracking distance of the headset to 33 x 30 meters. Meanwhile, an additional feature called Map Sharing allows multiple headsets to share the same virtual world in the same location.

Together, these features mean that Focus 3 can more easily support group VR sessions you might find in an immersive free-roaming arcade space like Zero Latency or The Void. HTC has also added a few other options. There’s a mode that instantly calibrates the headset when a new user puts it on instead of requiring a short setup process, designed to help arcades get people into experiences faster. An additional calibration mode will allow the headphones to track objects in addition to the included Focus 3 controller the Vive locator disk. And soon the headphones will support the WiFi 6E standard.

Location-based VR entertainment – the kind where users move around a real, physical arena with other people rather than staying in a fixed space – often relies on connecting headphones like the original HTC Vive to laptops backpack. This has several drawbacks: it takes time to put people in backpacks, backpack strap systems can fit poorly for some users and make the experience less comfortable for everyone. Many headphones also require external tracking beacons such as HTC and Valve’s Lighthouse system, which must be set overhead and can be accidentally blocked by other players.

Fully autonomous systems that incorporate location cameras and computing power into the headset can change that. But they’ve only been widely available for a couple of years, and the largest, Facebook / Meta’s Oculus Quest, is primarily aimed at home use. The Vive Focus 3 has a Quest-like feature set, but it’s tailored for businesses, and this update reinforces HTC’s long-standing presence in the VR location-based entertainment and arcade market. It could also create VR arcades, which they have suffered during the COVID-19 pandemic, more fun and convenient places to visit.

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