HTC is looking to take its Vive virtual reality platform beyond the open spaces of early adopters and into the classroom, entertainment venues, and beyond. To do that though, it has had to figure out a way to make the hardware more affordable, and its plan to do so is to offer the bare minimum of VR functionality, at a substantially discounted cost.
Although virtual reality is more established today than ever before, it’s still not a mainstream technology. The biggest barrier to that is the cost of the hardware — not to mention the PC to run each headset. To try and fix that, HTC is looking to overcome that price hurdle, and for that reason it’s selling its Vive Group Edition bundle without controllers and with only two sensors.
While this might sound like it strips out a lot of the fun and interactive potential of virtual reality, HTC doesn’t see it that way. By offering ten Business Edition headsets and two base stations for 50,000 yuan ($7,257), it is able to offer savings of as much as 40 percent (thanks Engadget) over traditional Business Edition pricing.
This would be perfect for virtual reality tours, or some of the seated experiences we’ve seen from some developers. Cinemas could take advantage of the technology to show virtual reality movies, too.
We’re told that controllers can even be added in later if the customer’s budget allows.
It’s not like buyers aren’t getting something extra with the Business Edition either. Traditionally those headsets cost a lot more than the standard package ($1,200 vs $800). This group edition is closer to $700 per headset and comes with a dedicated support line and a 12-month warranty.
As part of the announcement of this new kit, HTC’s Vive China president, Alvin Wang Graylin, also addressed concerns about children’s eyes. He said that during testing, although some users did report a reduction in their vision following use of a Vive, it was less common than similar problems experienced by those who used tablets in the classroom. He even claimed that 20 percent of children actually saw their vision improve afterward.
As it stands the Group Edition Vive bundle is only available in China, but it seems likely that if successful, it will be made available worldwide.