HTC Vive Focus 3 is an amazing VR headset that you don’t actually want to buy

HTC doesn’t want to confuse its new VIVE Focus 3 VR headset for the entry-level consumer like the Meta Quest 2.

Despite sharing some similar aesthetic philosophies, the two headphones couldn’t be more different. Quest 2 is designed for the consumer market, for those who plan to conquer virtual reality as a novelty in the comfort of their own home. This is not where VIVE Focus 3 lives.

Live in commercial spaces, VIVE Focus 3 is designed to change the face of interactive spaces. Let’s use Zero Latency as an example – Australian VR entertainment group recently signed a big deal with HTC to use the VIVE Focus 3 headphones as a primary VR device in most of its major locations around the world. To hear HTC say that, what tempted Zero Latency into this deal was the chance to ditch the now-known backpack technology that powers interactive VR spaces.

For starters, Zero Latency is, in a sense, what a laser tag looks like in 2022. Zero Latency uses a large retail space filled with realistic obstacles as a map. A 1:1 replica of this map is used when creating specialized game software so that when players wear a VR headset and step into one of ZL’s virtual worlds, everything they see before them is replicated in the real world. If you’re going down a slope in the game, that slope will be under your feet in real life, building an extra layer of immersion. The trade-off to do this has always been a “backpack” that players must wear at all times. Inside the backpack is a powerful gaming laptop that gives you a complete experience.

HTC VIVE Focus 3 eliminates the backpack. Instead of a basket of game data around player-to-player, playing it in real time, companies like Zero Latency can now use individual headsets and stream game data over a powerful Wi-Fi network. The headset is a one-piece unit with a removable battery in the headband. When a battery runs out, the employee can quickly remove it, replace it with a freshly charged unit, and move the player back in.

Since VIVE Focus 3’s ambitions are almost entirely commercial, there aren’t many games available for it. HTC wants to have headphones like this within reach of customers who can use them best — less so for the types of consumers looking to show off virtual reality to friends and family at Christmas.

What I felt during my brief hands-on session with the PAX Aus was a device with a lot of power behind it. Its dual 5K lenses (via a pair of 2.55 LCD panels operating at 90Hz) create an extremely clear and smooth image, and the 120° wide-angle field of view creates a sense of encapsulation. Response times were quick and near instant. The fit was snug and used magnets to hold adjustable components like glass solution in place, rather than cutting them into crevices that can lead to wear with regular removal. The headband carries the bulk of the weight, although the headset is well balanced from front to back. There’s no familiar pull down on the Quest 2’s rubber headband, as HMD would like to continue the gravitational pull. Instead, it sits off the bridge of your nose, and the weight hangs comfortably above your head.

As an all-in-one headset, the Focus 3 also eliminated the popular VIVE beacons, beacon-like devices that were to be placed around a room to triangulate movement and position. Like the Quest 2, the VIVE Focus 3 uses an array of cameras across its interface to “see” and track its surroundings. The replaceable battery and wireless transmission technology mean it cuts through the entire wire, allowing for a full range of motion within the preset area.

Thus, HTC finds itself in a strange situation – with a torn headset that most domestic manufacturers would envy, not available at this level. Even enthusiasts, who can look into this headset and see the value it represents, on paper and in practice, are left staring at the proverbial candy store window wondering why it was abandoned.

Where most other VR hardware makers are pushing for greater accessibility and competitive pricing in the home market, HTC’s interests seem to lie elsewhere. If she had already identified fertile ground for the market, it would not be long before others would try to follow suit.

In any case, your typical Zero Latency vacation session is about to get a lot easier on your back, and for that alone we should be thankful.

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