We might see a wireless high-end VR Headsets next year, according to the company’s former chief.
For a man who spent 18 years at HTC turning smartphones from mere business tools into ubiquitous consumer gadgets, Peter Chou knows a thing or two about nurturing new product categories. In fact, he had already started his second chapter at the company by bringing us the Vive virtual reality headset before his quiet departure last August. Today, Chou’s mission is extended by way of two chairman roles: one at visual effects studio Digital Domain, where he can “fully and deeply understand” VR content creation, and another at VR game studio Futuretown, where he is also an investor. Content development may seem like a weird match given Chou’s prior focus on hardware, but to him it felt like a logical next step. After all, it’s now content, not hardware (VR headsets), pushing VR forward.
Chou crossed paths with Futuretown while he was still developing the Vive. At the time, Chou wanted to extend HTC’s resources to support small VR companies with great potential, so he tasked his team with a scouting mission. That led them to Futuretown, which happened to be located nearby. One day its CEO, Johan Yang, simply walked over to meet Chou for some guidance.
“They were worried at the time because they didn’t really know where the market was, but I told them, every industry is like that,” Chou told Engadget ahead of Futuretown’s Tokyo Game Show press event. “At the beginning you can’t really see the market and how great the market is, but if you have a vision, if you believe that is the future, then you should work on that and build capabilities in that area, and try to be the best.”
Chou would later invest in Futuretown personally and then serve as a mentor under the “Honorary Chairman” title. This proved to be a smart move. The startup has already three VR games that have quickly risen to popularity. In particular, Cloudlands: VR Minigolf now owns 30 percent of the VR headsets Vive market share, which translates to about 30,000 units out of the estimated total of 100,000. The game was also recently updated with a level editor along with more than 200 user-created levels from the earlier beta program. Furthermore, Futuretown will add Oculus Rift support to at least two of those games, and they are ready to launch as soon as the Oculus Touch controller arrives — likely by end of year, as speculated by Yang.
Back in July, Chou returned to his hardware roots and announced Digital Domain’s professional 4K 360-degree camera, the Zeus. Then, this week he unveiled Futuretown’s first hardware product, the 5D Totalmotion modular simulator ride, in the hopes of making VR more immersive and user friendly. It will have four games at launch: Whiteout: Ski VR, Infinity Rider: Motorcycle VR, Wave Breaker: Surf VR and Stallion Adventures: Horse Riding VR.
Neither Yang nor Chou would say how much the machine might cost, but it’s clear that it won’t come cheap and is geared towards the business market (think: malls, arcades and internet cafes). Yang explained that these are the sorts of places where VR is already gaining momentum in parts of Asia, HTC and Futuretown’s home region.
‘Obviously, it would also be more convenient to go wireless as well.’
“I would say the 1080p kind of experience plus wireless are two to three years away,” Chou said “There’s some solution coming out of maybe second half of next year, but I think it will probably go to the next step in 2018.” Similarly, Chou and Yang expect some strong smartphone VR solutions to arrive in the same time frame, especially given how tech giants like Google, Qualcomm, Intel and NVIDIA are more actively looking at VR and inside-out tracking technologies. Just look at Google’s Tango for a sense of where these companies are headed.