HTC announces a new wrist-based controller for its Vive Focus 3 virtual reality headset. The wireless Vive Wrist Tracker fits like a watch on a user’s arm and tracks orientation and position from hand to elbow. It is designed to complement existing enterprise headset controllers, especially for simulation and training experiences where posture is important. It’s also part of a larger suite of new features HTC unveiled at CES, including a 5G-powered VR experience.
The Wrist Tracker is very similar to a small, light and specialized version of the Vive Tracker device that HTC debuted in 2017. It includes a strap and a switch that tells you whether the tracker should sit on a left or right arm, but unlike the multi-Vive Focus 3 button controllers, it’s designed to basically connect wirelessly to the headset and to send motion data without the headset’s cameras being able to see it. (You can also attach it to inanimate objects.) The VR training company Flaim describes using it to make sure people held a virtual fire extinguisher in the correct position — something you couldn’t necessarily control with a handheld controller alone — and Tasermaker Axon will apparently integrate it into the company’s VR training system.
Although HTC has not stated a price for the tracker, it will be launched in the first quarter of 2022. Like the Vive Tracker and the $1,300 Vive Focus 3, it’s not designed for consumers, and will be most valuable with experiences designed specifically to take advantage of it. But it’s also one of the less exotic accessories HTC has developed – a category that includes an advanced lip-tracking device.
HTC also announced the launch of what it calls a “portable, private 5G experience” in partnership with Lumen Technologies. It’s an application that runs on the Vive Focus 3, but moves most of the actual data processing to a remote computer and streams it through Lumen over a private 5G system. Mobile VR is a long-standing potential use-case for 5G networks, as experiences can require a lot of computing power delivered to headsets with low latency — although it hasn’t been transformative in space so far.
At CES, the company also announced a charging case and accessory to charge multiple batteries at once, targeting location-based entertainment providers such as arcades that want to quickly swap batteries for multiple headsets. Location-based entertainment providers have been using HTC wired headsets for some time now, but the Vive Focus 3 promises to get more convenient, especially after a series of software updates last year.