My forearms are pretty sore. And that's because I just tried to challenge a pro pitcher in batting practice with a real bat. I was able to do this because of the new HTC Tracker, a hockey puck size device that allows developers to integrate real-world objects into virtual reality.
The Tracker, which works with the HTC Vive, has a ton of applications, including training doctors on heart surgery, fighting fires with powerful virtual hoses and, yes, battling aliens with a monster-size gun.
Here at CES 2017, HTC also announced a new Vive Deluxe Audio Strap, which delivers 360-degree audio and a customizable sizing strap you can adjust with a dial.
The Vive Tracker, which weighs just under three ounces and 3.9 inches in diameter, attaches to various accessories. It basically can turn almost any object into VR device.
One of the coolest demos involved putting out a kitchen fire with a hose in Flaim Trainer, which has a trigger and also lets you adjust the pressure. The feeling was so real that the virtual stream of the water pushed up back. A heat sensor in the coat added to the immersion factor.
In another demo, a laser sight on an assault rifle allowed for much more precise headshots. But the gunplay isn't limited to those wearing a headset. Master of Shapes showed off a gun with a phone attached to it as well as as a Vive Tracker, so that someone using the Vive could battle it out with someone else in the same room.
While the company is targeting MLB teams at first, I was impressed by the Trinity VR's baseball simulation. A pro pitcher hurled the ball right at me as I swung a real bat with a Vive Tracer on the handle side. It added more weight than I'd like, but it was a lot of fun.
Last but not least, my colleague Sherri Smith took pictures of lifeforms on another planet using a futuristic camera. It was a fun way to explore creatures forming and evolving.
Better Audio Also Coming
Thanks to adjustable headphones, the Vive Deluxe Audio finally gives the Vive built-in headphones. There's a head strap you can customize using a dial. Turning it clockwise tightened the fit.
Vive Will Go Wireless for $249
By partnering with TPCast, the Vive will finally go wireless in the second quarter of this year. Although the price is somewhat steep at $249, it's nice that you won't have to trip over cables with this upgrade kit.
Unfortunately, the standard battery lasts 1.5 hours, but an XL battery coming later should last 5 hours.
Vive also announced that it expects commercial wireless VR adapters to ship in 2017.
Availability and Pricing
The Vive Tracker will be available in the second quarter, and pricing has not been released. It's going to take some time for app developers and peripheral makers to fully leverage this device, which is why HTC is giving away up to 1,000 Trackers away to developers.
The Deluxe Audio Strap will ship to retailers in Q2, and will be available to order on Vive.com. Pricing will be announced at a later date.
It looks like HTC just leapfrogged Oculus again in the VR wars. We can't wait to see what accessories and apps come out of the Vive Tracker.
- Oculus Rift vs. HTC Vive: The Vive Is Better (for Now)
- Hands on with the Oculus Touch Controllers
- Best VR-Ready PCs