Just when you thought it was safe to take the plunge on a VR headset in time for Half-Life: Alyx, HTC have just gone and announced three new Vive Cosmos headsets to spice up your virtual window shopping. Dubbed the Vive Cosmos Elite, Vive Cosmos XR and Vive Cosmos Play, all three headsets will have the same 2880x1700 resolution display and overall design as the original Cosmos, but their level of tracking capability will vary depending on which headset you go for - presumably to make them more competitive against the Cosmos' cheaper, lower-end Oculus and more expensive, higher-end Index rivals. Here's everything you need to know.
That doesn't mean that existing Vive Cosmos owners now have a defunct headset, however. Thanks to the Cosmos' modular face plate design, existing headset owners will simply be able to buy the appropriate face plate to change their headset's tracking capabilities should they feel so inclined. The new headset bundles, on the other hand, are for people who don't have a Cosmos at all and want to jump straight in with a particular headset.
At the bottom end of the scale, we've got the Vive Cosmos Play (pictured above). This is intended to be the lowest entry-point to the Cosmos family, and will have four cameras for inside-out tracking. HTC describe it as being "ideal for entry-level VR adventures and applications such as Viveport Video, Angry Birds VR: Isle of Pigs, The Curious Tale Of The Stolen Pets and A Fisherman's Tale", and they also say it will be a simpler and more affordable way for businesses and museums to incorporate VR into their public experiences.
There's no word on pricing just yet, but considering the regular Vive Cosmos has six cameras for inside-out tracking and costs £699 / $699, I reckon the Cosmos Play headset will probably come in somewhere around the £499 / $499 mark. Hopefully we won't have to wait long to find out, though, as HTC say that "additional details" on the Vive Cosmos Play will be made available in the coming months.
Next up is the Vive Cosmos XR (pictured above). This one comes with high-quality XR passthrough cameras that will turn the headset into something a bit like Microsoft's Hololens, allowing it to blend the real world with virtual objects and overlays. Quite how this will end up being applied to games is currently unknown, but with HTC set to show it off to developers at GDC next month, this could be the start of a new augmented reality-style boom.
It might be some time before the XR's potential comes to fruition, though, as it's first going to be made available as a developer kit only. It will eventually be available to buy as a standalone headset and a separate face plate, but we'll probably have to wait until GDC before we get an idea of when that will be. Again, there's no word on pricing just yet, but we'll probably be able to get a rough idea of how much it will cost when the developer kit becomes available sometime between April and June later this year.
Finally, there's the Vive Cosmos Elite (pictured above). Launching sometime before the end of March for £899 / $899, this looks to be HTC's Valve Index rival, as this one can be used with a pair of external Lighthouse base station trackers for use with SteamVR applications. Designed "to meet the needs of the most demanding VR entertainment enthusiasts", according to HTC, the Vive Cosmos Elite has been built for precision VR gaming experiences, such as Superhot VR, Pistol Whip, Audica and multiplayer VR games such as Battlewake.
It's expensive, sure, but it does come with loads of extras in the box, including two SteamVR base stations, two Vive controllers and two different face plates - the original inside-out tracking one that comes with the regular Vive Cosmos headset, and its special external tracking face plate (which is also compatible with the original Vive and Vive Pro controllers, existing Vive peripherals such as the Vive Tracker and Wireless Adapter, as well as base station versions 1.0 and 2.0, by the way).
The external tracking face plate will also be available as a standalone accessory for £199 / $199, primarily for existing Vive Cosmos and Cosmos Play owners who want to upgrade, and is due to launch sometime between April and June.
The existing Vive Cosmos, meanwhile, will continue to occupy the middle ground between the Vive Cosmos Play and Cosmos Elite for the aforementioned price of £699 / $699, but HTC will also be introducing a standalone six-camera Cosmos face plate for £199 / $199 in the same April-June period as everything else for prospective Cosmos Play upgraders.
I'll be testing some of the new headsets in due course to see how they stack up to the original Cosmos and the rest of their VR headset competition, but needless to say, if you're thinking about buying a new VR headset in the coming month, you may want to wait a bit to see how it all shakes out.