The recent announcement of the Vive Cosmos has turned quite a few heads. To some, this new and improved version of the Vive is just what they were hoping for. Vive’s community seems to have inspired the design. A lot of the quality of life adjustments for the Vive Cosmos were specifically requested by the current customer base. Will these improvements be worth the hefty
price tag? That remains to be seen, but there are still compelling reasons to pick this iteration of the Vive over other VR headsets.
The tracking system on the new Vive Cosmos is one of its more notable changes. On the previous iterations of the Vive headset, there were trackers on the faceplate and sides that would rely on “lighthouses”. These lighthouses would need to be installed around your play area so the Vive could track your head movements and orient you inside your play area.
The drawback to that method of tracking is not everyone has a suitably sized room to install the lighthouses. Likewise, the cost of a system that you could easily break down and take with you if you wanted to show off your gear at a friend’s house could be prohibitively expensive to some. Not everyone has the budget for high-quality tripods. If you didn’t have the tripods to set your lighthouses upon you may have to drill holes in your walls and install brackets to have the lighthouses attached.
With this new inside out tracking, you don’t have to worry about taking up room in the area where you game, and it adds a bit more portability to the headset without additional cost. This feature is also a way to keep the Vive in the market as a viable competitor against other headsets that don’t require lighthouses for their tracking like the Oculus Rift S. The drawback to some who already own an old school Vive may be the fact that the lighthouses they already have installed will be useless to their brand new headset, however, Vive does also have a solution in mind for that problem, which leads me into another interesting feature of the Vive Cosmos.
The Vive Cosmo’s modular design is another notable feature. The front faceplate for the Vive cosmos can be removed to allow you to install a faceplate that has the lighthouse tracking sensors on it, so you can still use the first generation Vive controllers, as well as the lighthouses you may already have set up. This opens up a bunch of customization options for the Cosmos in the future. While the six cameras inside-out tracking feature is comparable to other headsets in its class, some may prefer the classic tracking system instead.
The faceplate also boasts a ventilation system for the onboard fan that is built into the headset, which reduces not only the heat generated inside the headset while it is running but also relieves some of the heat that comes with wearing the VR headset in general. VR is fun, but it isn’t as much fun when your face is sweating.
The controllers that come with the new VR headset depend on a different tracking mechanism than the older Vive HMDs. The new controllers for the Vive Cosmos are tracked by the brightly lit ring design around the controllers themselves, instead of having lighthouse sensors. To deal with the obvious power draw that a lighted controller has, the new controllers are now powered by two AA batteries.
The button layout for the new Cosmos controllers has also been tweaked. The trackpad has been replaced by an analog thumbstick. There is now a shoulder button to go along with the trigger button on the front of the controller, and there is also a “home” button that you can press to open up menus, and if you double-tap the home button it will engage the two cameras in the front of the headset so you can see the real world without having to remove the headset. Most headsets already have this functionality, but the Vive Cosmos will allow you to see in color as opposed to the original’s black and white. The controllers will be slightly heavier than the first generation controllers for the Vive, which might make a difference after extended play.
Headstrap and Headphones
Thankfully, the strapping system for the Vive Cosmos has been re-designed. The Vive Cosmos will have a halo strap similar to the Playstation VR headset. Much like the PSVR HMD, the halo strap will allow the headset to tilt up, letting the person wearing it to see without obstruction. The halo itself is adjusted by a nob on the back of the headset that will allow you to tighten it down, or loosen it up. These adjustments are easier to make than the original Vive’s strap system.
Built-in headphones will also accompany the new head strap as well. These headphones are detachable, though. The Cosmos does include a 3.5mm headphone jack in the headset so you can use your own.
The screen resolution may be the Cosmos’ biggest improvement. The LCD panels will boast a resolution of 2,880×1,700 over both screens. To put that into perspective, the original Vive shipped with a resolution of 2,160×1,200. The LCD screens for the new Vive Cosmos also have RGB sub-pixels to help reduce that weird rainbow distortion that afflicts most first-generation VR headsets.
Now, the sticky question that any VR headset consumer needs to answer for themselves, does the Vive Cosmos have a better value proposition than other headsets in its class? Well, the
$699 price tag that the Cosmos comes with is a pretty high barrier to entry considering you still need a fairly high-end gaming rig to power it. Other headsets do beat it in the price department by a few hundred dollars. Vive has considered this as well, so as an added bonus, if you pre-order the Cosmos before October 3rd, its official launch date, you get a year of Viveport free. Those that purchase after the launch date still gets free access to Viveport, however at a reduced time-frame of 6 months. This headset has a lot of potential, and comes with access to games right out of the box, but only time will tell if the Cosmos will be a big hit.
Vive Cosmos is available on the official Vive website
Image Source: HTC