Vive’s Project Proton could be what next-gen XR headsets might look like.
Vive’s Project Proton could be what next-gen XR headsets might look like.
Photo: HTV Vive

HTC Vive had big plans to put on some fancy demos at Mobile World Congress, and while the show has been canceled due to concerns about the coronavirus, that isn’t stopping HTC from announcing three new additions to its Cosmos headset family.

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When the original Vive Cosmos went on sale late last year, it was designed as a modular headset so that depending on the situation, you could swap out its faceplate for different feature sets or upgrade the headset with higher performance parts post purchase. However, until now, HTC hadn’t really shed much light on what the Cosmos’s add-ons would look like.

So now, in addition to the existing Vive Cosmos, Vive is expanding the Cosmos line with three new products that will be available either as standalone headsets or as separate faceplate add-ons.

Cosmos Play

The Cosmos Play has two fewer cameras than the standard Cosmos, which should help lower its price and make it easier for people to try out VR for the first time.
The Cosmos Play has two fewer cameras than the standard Cosmos, which should help lower its price and make it easier for people to try out VR for the first time.
Photo: HTC Vive
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While its price is still to be determined, the Cosmos Play is Vive’s new entry-level headset and features four inside-out tracking cameras instead of six, to help get people started with VR for (presumably) a slightly lower price. And like every other member in the family, the Cosmos Play features the same 2880 x 1700 resolution optics found on the standard Cosmos.

The existing Vive Cosmos is sticking around at $700 (or $200 for just the faceplate), and it includes six built-in cameras for more precise inside-out tracking (no need for external light houses) and increased tracking height. The change for the standard Cosmos is that, with the introduction of the new Cosmos Elite, the regular Cosmos now represents the mid-range member of the Cosmos family.

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Cosmos Elite

The $900 Cosmos Elite bundle will come with the headset, two SteamVR base stations and two Vive controllers.
The $900 Cosmos Elite bundle will come with the headset, two SteamVR base stations and two Vive controllers.
Photo: HTC Vive
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As for the Cosmos Elite, at $900, it’s the most expensive of the bunch. While it still supports inside-out tracking, it also features support for external motion tracking via Steam VR in order to deliver the best available motion tracking. Alongside the headset, the Cosmos Elite bundle will come with two SteamVR base stations and two Vive controllers, though anyone looking to upgrade just the faceplate can do so for $200.

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Cosmos XR

Moving on to the third and final new member of the Cosmos family is the Cosmos XR, which features “high-quality” XR passthrough cameras that add support for augmented reality effects to the Cosmos family. Vive says that the plan all along was to make multi-purpose headsets that can handle all sorts of mixed reality use cases including both VR and AR, but due to technical limitations, the company chose to focus on VR first before moving onto AR like you get with the Cosmos XR.

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The Cosmos XR is mixed reality headset that supports both VR and AR.
The Cosmos XR is mixed reality headset that supports both VR and AR.
Photo: HTC Vive

That said, while the Cosmos XR will work with existing software such as Vive Sync (which is a mixed reality meeting and collaboration app), because support for AR is still very new to the Vive ecosystem, Vive says the Cosmos XR is mostly intended for use by developers, at least for the rest of 2020. Vive says it will also have more info to share about the Cosmos XR next month at GDC.

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Project Proton

And just in case three new headsets wasn’t enough, Vive is also teasing something it’s calling Project Proton. While it’s strictly a prototype, for now, Vive’s concept XR headset features an incredibly stylish design that might take some of the embarrassment out of wearing current mixed reality headsets. Vive also says that Project Proton will include an “all-in-two” design that allows the headset to be powered by either a standard desktop or laptop, or a mobile processing unit like a smartphone. Sadly, without any additional info on specs or release date, that’s about all we know about Project Proton for now.

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Project Proton seems like a peek into what Vive is working towards next, both in terms of design and feature set.
Project Proton seems like a peek into what Vive is working towards next, both in terms of design and feature set.
Photo: HTC Vive

All in all, it’s nice to see HTC Vive build out its range of headsets. The Cosmos XR, in particular, is encouraging because the real end goal for AR, VR, and any other type of mixed reality headset is to have a device that can support a wide range of use cases instead of being siloed into a specific slice of digital content. We’re talking rolling HoloLens, Google Glass, and today’s best VR headsets all into one. And between the Cosmos XR and the other Cosmos VR headsets, Vive seems to be taking the first step towards making that happen.

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Of the new headsets, the Cosmos Elite will be available first with pre-orders going live on Monday, February 24, and shipments expected to go out before the end of Q1, while the Cosmos Elite faceplate will be available separately later in Q2. As for the Cosmos Play and Cosmos XR, Vive is planning to release final pricing and availability info later this spring.

Senior reporter at Gizmodo, formerly Tom's Guide and Laptop Mag. Was an archery instructor and a penguin trainer before that.

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