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First Look: HTC Vive Cosmos

What to say about the Vive Cosmos? The next-gen VR headset in HTC's Vive range was teased back at this year's CES 2019, and there's still a lot of key information we don't know about the consumer headset – like price, specs, or how the Vive Cosmos will compare to the existing HTC Vive and Vive Pro.

Now though, we know the VR headset will be landing in 2019, possibly as soon as August.

As announced earlier, the Cosmos will indeed be the next evolution for the Vive series of headsets, offering next-level gaming in virtual reality. Cosmos will also use a new version of HTC's tracking system that will allow you to bring the headset with you from one place to the next. 

In addition to next-gen tracking that presumably uses those two side-facing cameras, the headset will use new light bar-equipped controllers and a screen that, according to HTC, will minimize the screen door effect that plagues low-resolution headsets.

On top of all that, HTC says the headset will be the easiest yet to setup: a huge boon for those of us who know how hard it can be to get a VR headset setup.

The last feature HTC is touting is the new flip-up design that will allow you to raise the headset when you want to jump in the game, and quickly flip it up when you need to see what's happening in the real world. The new design should make it easier to wear for hours... but we'll need to wear it for ourselves to verify that claim.

Here's a closer look at the controllers:

Take a peek at the new #HTCVIVE COSMOS controllers. The gamer-friendly controls & seamless tracking on the VIVE COSMOS controllers are designed to give you greater control of your VR experience. Stay tuned into more COSMOS announcements on our website. https://t.co/oVcV3a2JKU pic.twitter.com/gVSq7vqQquFebruary 20, 2019

All that said, HTC is still being reclusive about the release date and potential price for the next-gen headset – though a blog post on its Vive Developers Forum has specified a release date in mid-to-late 2019, with dev kits already with / being sent out to developers.

HTC Vive Cosmos: Design

It’s surprising how similar the Cosmos looks to the HTC Vive Pro - they both share the darker blue coloring and two front-facing cameras. Those striking visual similarities might mean that we can expect the Pro’s specs inside the Cosmos… but maybe not. HTC just isn’t ready to talk resolution, field of view or any of the other hard details.

What we do know for sure is that the headset has side-facing cameras and second-gen controllers that look nearly identical to the ones Oculus made for the Rift. HTC says that the Vive Cosmos won't need any sensors for it to work, which likely means that the cameras located on the fronts and sides will be responsible for tracking. 

Speaking of tracking, what you might notice is that the controllers have a unique light ring along the outside - a neat visual addition that might have something to do with the way the Cosmos tracks the controllers... not that HTC had that info on hand.

We also know that the Cosmos is going to be a wired headset and that it will at least, at some point, connect to your PC. We say “at least” because HTC, rather cryptically, said that this headset will transcend the computer… somehow. 

“The product will work with more than your PC,” says Dan O’Brien, General Manager at HTC. “But we’re not saying what that is just yet.”

“Over the next few months we’re going to give out all the details on this products … but we wanted to tell consumers that we have a new headset that’s going to be easy to set up. We’ve heard from a lot of our consumers that headsets are tough to setup and that they can’t take it with them. That’s what we’re trying to solve with this product.”

It’s almost certain to work with a smartphone too, as a slide showing a phone nestled next to the Cosmos was shown off. We’re not sure why HTC didn’t make a big deal of that one.

HTC Vive Cosmos: Performance

Unfortunately because the Cosmos wasn’t available to try, it’s hard to give any real impression of the hardware outside of what we could see and what we heard from HTC executives; HTC announced it here to build the hype and says that it will provide more details on what it will be like later this year. 

Trying to squeeze some sort of information out of O’Brien, however, we were able to get some crucial information. The first piece is that the headset will work with the PC and… well, something else, likely your mobile phone or another device. 

That’s obviously and purposely oblique, but it could mean different levels of performance depending on what the Cosmos is plugged into.

When asked about where the Cosmos would fit into the Vive hardware lineup, O’Brien wouldn’t quite say – but says that info will be coming at some point in the near future. 

While HTC also announced an eye-tracking headset at the show - the HTC Vive Pro Eye - the Cosmos won’t have the ability to know where you’re looking and therefore won’t support foveated rendering - one of Oculus’ biggest advantages in the headset war.

If the Cosmos turns out to be a headset that can be plugged into whatever device you have around - your phone, your tablet, your PC, whatever - it could be a neat solution. But without knowing exactly what the Vive Cosmos is and what it can do, it’s all a big question mark.

Early impressions

HTC is being purposely oblique with the Cosmos. It’s a new headset that will work with a PC... “and other devices” with that last part often said with a smirk. 

What we know for sure is that it’s HTC’s peace offering for consumers - a sign that HTC still cares about gamers and VR socialites and should give them something to get excited for in the months to come. 

The only question remains over whether it’s enough of a sign, given how little was announced about it.

Check out all of TechRadar's CES 2019 coverage. We're live in Las Vegas to bring you all the breaking tech news and launches, plus hands-on reviews of everything from 8K TVs and foldable displays to new phones, laptops and smart home gadgets. Read More

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