Vive Strikes Back: New Cosmos HMDs Bring Improvements to HTC

J.C. Kuang, Analyst J.C. Kuang, Analyst Consumer Insights, Devices & Technology, Head-Mounted Displays, Insight Articles, Virtual Reality, Virtual Reality Intelligence Service

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Following the cancellation of MWC 2020, HTC Vive has made official announcements for new products in its VR hardware catalog. The Vive Cosmos line now includes three HMDs sharing a common hardware architecture and internal components but enhanced with different modular faceplate components that alter the tracking capabilities of the base Cosmos device.

Modular faceplates alter the functionality of each Cosmos device. Image courtesy HTC.
  • Cosmos Elite: Priced at $899, Cosmos Elite HTC Vive’s premium PC VR offering. It straddles the line between high-tier devices like Valve Index and value-oriented ones such as Oculus Rift S. The Elite’s price reflects the value of additional bundled SteamVR trackers, which are necessary for the Elite to function. Notably, the company will also sell the Elite faceplate separately for existing Cosmos owners at $199.
  • Cosmos Play: The more affordable Cosmos HMD reduces the number of exterior tracking cameras from 6 to 4, and foregoes integrated headphones present on other HTC Vive HMDs, looking to capture market share in high-throughput applications such as enterprise training and tourism. While the design is closer in spirit to an Oculus Quest, the Cosmos Play is not a standalone device. HTC has retracted an earlier announcement that the Play would be priced at $499.
  • Cosmos xR: Positioned as a developer kit to be formally unveiled at GDC 2020, the Cosmos XR distinguishes itself as the only standalone HMD in the Cosmos line. Company leadership promises the tracking cameras are capable of high-quality passthrough AR passthrough within a 100-degree FOV.
  • Proton: Revealed alongside the new mass-market devices was a working prototype for a high-quality passthrough enabled headset designed to be worn as a pair of eyeglasses. This form factor is similar to other prototypes from Pico and Panasonic demonstrated at CES 2020.

Our Analysis

While consumers will inevitably encounter some difficulty distinguishing the nuances between each HTC device, as well as the overall differentiators between Cosmos and Vive proper, competitors and consumers should not expect the original Vive line to be discontinued in the near future. Vive’s enduring popularity in the location-based entertainment space and entrenched position due to its early mass-market release have assured it a strong position among both regular consumers and enterprise clients. In fact, HTC’s pricing model for the new hardware implies that the company expects a portion of Cosmos buyers to already own Vive/SteamVR peripherals. 

No information has been released as to a potential compute pack or smartphone compatibility for Proton. Image courtesy HTC.

HTC executives assert that Proton is a functioning prototype, but the HMD is unlikely to see a commercial release within the next two years. Devices in similar form factors still face major challenges in externalizing key components like processors, batteries, and potentially an LTE or 5G modem. While HTC has some experience in small form-factor 5G computing, it will need to advance its technology portfolio further before releasing a commercially viable standalone device. 

Overall, HTC’s longstanding commitment to modularity has enabled it to extract further value from the still-immature Cosmos platform. However, the mass-market VR space has only continued to mature following major developments such as Oculus Link, and HTC will need to continue to invest heavily in refining its content offerings and mitigating supply shortages to remain competitive.