CES always seems to have at least one major trend at the trade show, and this year's hot ticket is virtual reality. With a new HTC Vive headset, the announcement of the Oculus Rift's pricey consumer model, and all manner of smaller announcements, it's safe to say that VR is the belle of the ball on the show floor. But all of them have one thing in common: you can't fit them in a pocket. Even Google's super-cheap Cardboard system is about the size of a dSLR camera when assembled. Case maker Speck thinks it's solved that problem with a new design, which is about the same size as a phone.
HTC raised more than a few eyebrows when it announced the Vive, a VR headset that ostensibly competes with the more well-known Oculus Rift. But far from being some one-off excursion like the Re Camera, the Vive has gained critical acclaim from those who've had access to its pre-production developer units, and HTC's partnership with Valve gives the company an in with one of the gaming industry's most influential players. At CES 2016, HTC revealed a new model, the Vive Pre, with some very interesting additions to the original.
On top of some ergonomic adjustments for more comfortable wear, the Vive Pre adds a front-facing camera to the design, which allows for easy viewing of the real world without having to remove the headset.
Forget Update Wednesday! Monday is the new big day. Not only were we treated to the latest M preview release and the official Marshmallow name, but a stream of app updates came rushing out after the sun had set on Mountain View. For many of these apps, little changed aside from a few tweaks and touch-ups to support the next major version of Android. Still, there were improvements to be seen on a couple of updates. YouTube received a couple of mostly unimportant modifications to the interface, but it also contains clues about some things we may see in the future.
If you haven't been able to grab a free Google Cardboard VR headset from various trade shows, under-supplied OnePlus promotions, Conan O'Brien, or anyone else, there's one more option. FreeVRGoggles.com does what it says on the box, so to speak: if you're a United States resident over the age of 18, just enter an address and an email and they'll send you a free Google Cardboard unit. (You can probably use a fake email address... and you might want to.) Slip your phone inside and you get access to all the compatible apps on the Play Store. Why? That's an interesting question.
At the first few major tech conferences of the year, CES in Las Vegas, Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, and the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco, the current trend of virtual reality is inescapable. Such disparate players as Facebook, Samsung, and Razer are all throwing their weight behind various virtual reality headsets, and software developers are scrambling to meet the demand for apps, games, and videos. According to this report by the Wall Street Journal, Google isn't content to dip its toe into VR with the mostly experimental Cardboard platform.
The paper cites "two people familiar with the project" who say that the company is working on another branch of Android specifically for virtual reality hardware and software.
Last year the buzzword at Mobile World Congress was "wearable." The fervor from that market trend still hasn't died down, but hot on its heels is "virtual reality." Despite a less than fantastic position in the smartphone space, HTC seems intent on expanding into virtual reality to compete with the likes of Microsoft, Google, Oculus Rift (and by extension, Facebook), and Samsung. Say hello to the HTC Vive... or possibly the Re Vive, depending on which HTC promo you go by.
Details on HTC's hardware are scarce - to be honest, we don't even know if the Vive is running Android or compatible with smartphones in any way.
Rumors are flying about Samsung's plans for the virtual reality headset market. Just a week after Engadget's last unconfirmed report on Samsung's VR device, there's a new post that sheds quite a lot more light on the subject. First of all, Samsung and Oculus VR (makers of the Oculus Rift and recently acquired by Facebook) are sharing technology to improve each other's products. And secondly, Samsung's device uses a dock for your phone, which then becomes the primary display for the device.
If that seems a little odd do you, you're not alone. Assuming that this really is the direction that Samsung is going, the "headset" would be more a of a head-mounted dock, albeit one with some extra hardware and software tricks thrown in.