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HTC VIVE was the first headset to dominate the VR arcade space. They were the first major company to support licensing for arcades. Their original VIVE, VIVE Pro, and now VIVE Pro 2, dominate the market for tethered, PC-based VR experiences. But PCVR is expensive. It requires high-end gaming computers, tracking cameras, and headsets with fragile cables.
HTC was a late entrant into the all-in-one game. Their original Focus+ headset, announced in 2017 and released in April 2019, fell flat. The original Oculus Quest was released a month later and essentially ate its lunch.
But I give credit to HTC for staying in the game. They listened to the market, and two years later announced the VIVE Focus 3. Most industry observers immediately considered it the best all-inone headset on the market.
The VIVE Focus 3 features:
This year, they released their Location-Based Software Suite. You guessed it, it’s a set of software and services specifically designed for the LBE market. They are the only company to go to this length to support arcades. LBSS enables:
The VIVE Focus 3 and LBSS combination is the biggest leap forward for location-based VR since the original VIVE. It’s going to spur a whole new level of innovation, and I can’t wait to see what developers do with it. For more information on Focus 3, click this link.
In August of 2021, ByteDance, the owner of TikTok and the largest private tech company in the world, acquired headset manufacturer Pico. It was a bold move to challenge Meta in its dominance of the VR market.
At the time of the acquisition, I was unsure if Pico would continue to support B2B and LBE, as the consumer market is way bigger. But they released the Pico 4 for Business at the AWE show in Lisbon, Portugal. And I’ve spoken to executives at Pico actively recruiting and hiring to build out their B2B channel. So, for now, Pico is still a player in the LBE market.
Pico was one of the first companies to offer engineering-level support for their all-in-one headset, the Pico Neo 3. Companies that tried the Quest quickly pivoted to Pico, giving them significant market share in the LBVR space. Their new Pico 4 is a great headset. It features pancake optics and a color pass-through camera. But it doesn’t have removable batteries, and the software support is nowhere near the level of HTC.
I have been intentionally harsh in my reviews of Facebook, now Meta, and their moves into the VR space. For a company that’s exhibited the lack of humanity, now documented by Facebook, to own the future of VR and the metaverse frightens me.
However, I also applaud their research and development in the space. Meta is doing more to advance the technology of virtual reality than any other company in the world. Their work on tracking, optics, photorealistic avatars, and EMG measurement as a human-computer interface, is world-class.
On October 12, 2022, Meta unveiled their new business-class device, the Quest Pro. It is the most complete, sophisticated mass-market headset to date. I ordered one right away, despite the US$1500 price. I will probably use it a lot. But, it is not an LBE-ready device any more than the Quest 2.
LBE requires a unique set of software and hardware features. Only two companies have shown a sufficient level of engineering support for suppliers to build VR attractions that work for operators: Pico and HTC VIVE. Meta has consistently tried to distance itself from LBE, including explicitly restricting arcade usage in its Terms of Service.
Every company that released an LBE product based on the Quest has moved to another headset. The low price point is alluring. But you get what you pay for. Buyer beware.