HTC will launch mobile VR device as follow-up to Vive

Look for a different kind of virtual reality gadget. HTC executive says, "it's not a phone slapped onto a headset."

Sarah Tew/CNET
Mobile

HTC will soon launch a new virtual reality toy you can use on the go.

The device will be compatible with HTC's new flagship phone, the U Ultra. But HTC says it won't be just a simple headset like Samsung's Gear VR.

VR, which puts headset wearers into a computer-generated digital world, has swept across the tech industry over the last few years. HTC bet on the high end with its Vive system, which requires a pricey, powerful PC to run. But there are more affordable options like the Gear VR and the Google Daydream View that work by plugging in your phone to a cheap headpiece. HTC's follow-up to the Vive could could bridge the gap between these two types of system.

"We have a good plan in terms of combining mobility with VR," said Chia-lin Chang, HTC's president of global sales, in an interview at the HTC U series launch event in Singapore.

"Vive is very top end, and in the coming months you'll see our plans in terms of mobility and VR, and it's not a phone slapped onto a headset," he said. "It'd be a different thing."

Chang added that the mystery VR product would launch before the end of the year.

"We're a VR company, we're going to have something," he said.

HTC's shift in focus to VR comes as the company continues to stumble with its core phone business. The Taiwanese company put its marker down on virtual reality in 2016 with the launch of the Vive, which went up against the Oculus Rift system from Facebook and against Sony's Playstation VR. Chairwoman and CEO Cher Wang highlighted the VR efforts in a statement when HTC disclosed poor financial results in its fourth quarter on Tuesday.

The company reported an operating loss of NT$3.6 billion (about $116 million) with revenue falling 14 percent to NT$22.2 billion (about $722 million) despite "robust sales performance."

While HTC remains high on virtual reality, critics question whether the technology has lived up to the hype set last year with the debut of most of the big-name VR systems. The amount of fresh VR content that appeared at CES was underwhelming, although filmmakers are trying to find ways to draw you in.

HTC is working to foster that content as well.

"We have learned much from our entrance into the world of virtual reality," Wang said, "and we believe our focused approach to building the ecosystem is the right strategy to enable the whole industry to expand through the creation of compelling content and rich experiences."

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