The best VR innovations at CES 2018 so far

vr innovations htc vive pro header
Ask anyone what the biggest challenge is for VR in 2018 and you’ll get some variation of the same answer: It’s still waiting to become useful. We have nice headsets, sure, and they’re getting more affordable, and you can get your Windows on in VR now. But even the most stalwart VR fanatics are still trying to figure out exactly what to use it for.

No one application will singlehandedly transform VR from novelty to living-room staple, but at CES 2018, we saw a few clever new VR technologies moving us closer to the tipping point.

Vive Pro

What it does: Improves on the original Vive, but maintains backward compatibility

Believe it or not, it’s been almost two years since the HTC Vive and Oculus Rift had their full, final retail releases! Two years!

It’s time for an update, and Vive is the first out of the gate with its new Vive Pro. The headset increases the pixel count by 78 percent, hitting 2,880 x 1,660. That crams in 615 pixels per inch. HTC says fine text is finally readable, something that just wasn’t possible before.

The Vive Pro also includes built-in headphones with an amplifier, dual microphones, and a redesigned strap that HTC promises will make the headset more comfortable for people with glasses. It’s a big step forward all around.

Plus, it’s (optionally) wireless. HTC announced a new wireless adapter that works over Intel’s 60GHz WiGig standard. It works with both the Vive Pro and the original Vive. A battery pack is added to the Vive or Vive Pro for wireless use.

There’s no pricing or release date for the Vive Pro yet, but HTC has promised that it’ll be backward compatible with existing hardware, like the Basestation 1.0. We’re eagerly awaiting more information. This sounds like the headset we’ve been waiting for.


What it does: Tracks your eyes and brain in VR

Websites like Digital Trends have a complex set of analytics tools that let us examine everything. We can see statistics on headlines that work, or don’t, in real time. If you’re not clicking a headline, we can fix it.

Looxid uses eye tracking to apply this insane Type-A level of perfection to virtual reality. As users explore an environment — like a museum — in VR, the headset tracks both your eyes and brain activity, using an imposing set of electrodes embedded in the headband. The eye tracking can tell what you pay attention to, and the electrodes can tell what effect those stimuli have. Are you excited by the statue you’re looking at? Bored? Scared?

By incorporating brain activity, Looxid could help usher in an age of analytics that makes even today’s impressive web analytics look primitive. Remember that Black Mirror episode about a VR simulation that realizes your worst fears? This is a step in that direction, though we hope it’ll be put to less terrifying use.

Pimax 8K VR headset

What it does: Gives you the highest-resolution VR experience

We’ve explained how the Pimax “8K” VR headset isn’t really 8K at all, but that doesn’t change the bottom line: This is the highest-resolution VR headset you’ll find. With two 4K displays up against oour face, our experience with the Pimax 8K VR headset convinced us that this is the future of premium VR headsets.

But the most important innovation is in the realm of field of view. The Pimax headset has a super-wide 200 degree field of view, which is much wider than other VR headsets on the market. The 200 degrees gets this headset closer to the 220 degree natural field of view of the human eye, meaning VR experiences feel that much more immersive.

The headset itself, though, could definitely use some work. It uses a rubber headstrap that is pretty uncomfortable — and again, it didn’t really work with glasses. So while the technology is there, the overall experience still feels more like a prototype than a market-ready product. Speaking of which, the Pimax headset still doesn’t have a price or release date.


What it does: Turns CAD drawings into VR prototypes

No matter how vivid your imagination, it’s hard to imagine what something sketched on paper will look like in real life. That’s why manufacturers build prototypes, even at great expense. The rise of 3D printing has helped reduce the cost of this time-consuming process, but there are limits. Try 3D printing a boat or a car. Yeah, It’s not simple.

That’s why automakers like Ford began using VR to prototype car designs long before VR was even mainstream. Using physical “bucks” that simulate the interior of a vehicle and VR headsets, designers can preview how changes to the design of a car will affect the way it feels to sit in it. Will dropping the roofline make it harder to see out the back? Are those mirrors far enough forward?

Meshroom brings the benefits of this multimillion-dollar setup to smaller makers. Simply upload a CAD drawing, and Meshroom converts it to a one-to-one scale model you can interact with in VR. You can walk around a virtual product to examine it from every angle, move it with controllers, and even skin it with realistic textures that you can customize on the fly, all in VR.

At $2,700 for a one-year license, it’s not cheap, but maybe your next Kickstarter will benefit from a VR prototype before that first botched batch arrives from China.


What it does: Lets you navigate VR with your feet

“Room-scale” virtual reality makes moving around as easy as walking, but what happens when you reach the end of your 10-foot x 10-foot room? And what if you want a sit-down VR experience?

The 3dRudder is a clever, intuitive way to explore in three dimensions. It’s basically a balance board that works like a joystick for your feet. Roll it forward, and you go forward. Roll it back, and you go back.

The first version of the device has been around for about a year, but a new version shown at CES 2018 introduces “wings” that add yet another degree of freedom. Besides locking your feet to the pad, they serve as additional inputs. Tilting one foot up and one foot down can move you up and down in virtual space, giving you four degrees of freedom.

We gave it a shot in Star Citizen, and it took about three seconds to get used to before we were effortlessly gliding between buildings like a pro. Well, almost. That antenna snuck up on us.

Space sims are an obvious fit for a device like this, but 3dRudder also works with a number of first-person shooters, like Doom VFR and Fallout 4, so you can roam around while keeping both hands free for controllers.

Product Review

The Oculus Rift is cheaper, the Vive Pro is better. Is the original Vive still worth it?

The Oculus Rift may have brought virtual reality into the public eye, but HTC’s Vive, built in partnership with Valve, does it better. Does the Vive still represent the true future of virtual reality, or are there better competitors on…
Home Theater

I’ve seen the 8K TV future, and you should be excited. Here’s why

Samsung set the tech world on fire when it announced it would sell an 85-inch 8K TV in the U.S. along with several 8K screen sizes in Europe. Debates over the validity and value of such a high resolution have continued since, and we're here…
Emerging Tech

Here’s all the best gear and gadgetry you can snag for $100 or less

A $100 bill can get you further than you might think -- so long as you know where to look. Check out our picks for the best tech under $100, whether you're in the market for headphones or a virtual-reality headset.

Nvidia is slowly rolling out its next generation of GPUs. Here's what you need to know about them

Nvidia's new RTX 2000 series graphics cards are impressive pieces of hardware, with some amazing advancements and some rather high price tags to match. Here's everything you need to know about Nvidia's new top-tier cards.

Apple Mac users should take a bite out of these awesome games

Contrary to popular belief, there exists a bevy of popular A-list games compatible for Mac computers. Take a look at our picks for the best Mac games available for Apple fans.
Emerging Tech

MIT is building a new $1 billion college dedicated to all things A.I.

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) has announced a new $1 billion college of computing designed to offer the best possible education to future machine learning A.I. experts.

Remove photo bombs, other unwanted objects with Photoshop’s new Content-Aware Fill

Photoshop's newest A.I-powered tool helps remove objects or fill in gaps for a distraction-free photo in the new Adobe Photoshop CC 2019. Here's how to remove an object in Photoshop using the new Content-Aware Fill.

Feed your fandom: These are the best YouTube channels for sports lovers

If you're a cable cutter who still wants to enjoy quality sports highlights and analysis, YouTube is the place to go. There are plenty of great sports-centric channels on YouTube, each of which provides great highlights and top-shelf…

Adobe Premiere Rush CC is the cloud-based video editing app you've been waiting for

On stage at Adobe MAX 2018, Adobe announced its cloud-centric, social video-editing application, Adobe Premiere Rush CC. We took some time to put it through its paces to see what it offers, how it works, and what's missing.
Social Media

YouTube is back after crashing for users around the world

It's rare to see YouTube suffer serious issues, but the site went down around the world for a period of time on October 16. It's back now, and we can confirm it's loading normally on desktop and mobile.

Winamp eyes big comeback in 2019 with podcast, streaming support

Classic audio player Winamp is getting a major overhaul in 2019 that's designed to bring it up-to-date and make it competitive with the likes of Apple Music, Amazon Music, Spotify, Audible, and more, all in one go.

Is the Pixelbook 2 still happening? Here's everything we know so far

What will the Pixelbook 2 be like? Has the Pixel Slate taken its place? Google hasn't announced it, but thanks to rumors and leaks, we think we have a pretty good idea of what the potential new flagship Chromebook will be like.

Adobe MAX 2018: What it is, why it matters, and what to expect

Each year, Adobe uses its Adobe MAX conference to show off its latest apps, technologies, and tools to help simplify and improve the workflow of creatives the world over. Here's what you should expect from this year's conference.

Problems with Microsoft’s Windows October 2018 Update aren’t over yet

Microsoft's Windows 10 October 2018 update is not having a great launch. More than two weeks after its debut and Microsoft is still putting out fires as new bugs are discovered and there's no sign of its re-release as of yet.