CES 2017: Headsets, PCs, games and accessories, the best of the show

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Adriana Gil
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Summary

  • VR headsets: PC liberation, a new workhorse
  • Mobile builders want their piece of the pie
  • VR / AR optimized smartphones to democratize technology
  • Accessories to ensure the transition to the new generation
  • 360 video goes UHD at CES 2017
  • New competitors to the HoloLens
  • New content to make up for the lack

VR headsets: PC liberation, a new workhorse

If the rumor wanted an HTC Vive 2.0 to be unveiled in Las Vegas during CES 2017, the manufacturer denied even before the start of the show. But other actors were present and unveiled their vision of the virtual reality headset. Acer, HP and Dell have thus shown products running under Windows Holographic.



At Intel, the conference was resolutely VR oriented : the brand has indeed made the bet to equip spectators with some 260 Oculus Rift. The American manufacturer lifted the veil on its Project Alloy, a standalone merged reality headset. Capable as well of helping professionals in the performance of their task or of entertaining the general public, the headset according to Intel will relieve the user of the constraint of the PC. The product should be available in the last half of 2017.

It seems like PC postage is the next evolution of VR headsets. While it has been accepted that the first models of devices to arrive on the market were conducive to cable entanglement, this is now a recurring criticism among users. Some accessories to reduce the presence of wires between the PC and the headphones do exist, but CES 2017 has shown that the trend is now towards device independence.


The Pico brand took advantage of CES 2017 to announce a stand-alone headset. LThe Pico Neo VR is powered by a high-end Qualcomm processor, the Snapdragon 820, released in late 2015 and based on the Snapdragon VR SDK. It has two 1,5Hz 90K screens and has the good idea of ​​offering two integrated Hi-Fi speakers. A new benchmark on the market? With an SoC that some will deem outdated when the 835 has just been unveiled by Qualcomm, maybe not. But Chinese Pico seems well on its way to becoming a brand that will count in the VR industry.


Mobile builders want their piece of the pie

Samsung is unquestionably the leading smartphone manufacturer in the VR market. Its competitors have not failed to offer their vision but Gear VR currently remains the benchmark in mobile virtual reality. The Korean giant has not revealed any new product in terms of VR but took advantage of the event to highlight the success of its Gear VR which has sold 5 million copies.

Mobile manufacturers have indeed grasped the stakes and the scale that the market will have to take in the years to come. Thus, newcomers have entered. Chinese Huawei, the world's third largest smartphone seller in 2016, presented a DayDream headset. Little information was finally given. We just know that the product will only be available in China.

Lenovo also offered a prototype VR headset based on the Windows Holographic platform.. The headset offers a resolution of 1440 x 1440 pixels, higher than those of the HTC Vive and Oculus Rift.


VR / AR optimized smartphones to democratize technology

Samsung's success seems to inspire more than one. Beyond the headset itself, mobile VR involves having a quality smartphone. Aware of this issue, Qualcomm, the daddy of Snapdragon processors that equip a large part of the mobile market, has unveiled the new born of its 8xx range, the Snapdragon 835. This new SoC promises faster 3D graphics rendering as well as 60 times more colors than its predecessor. According to Qualcomm, this VR optimized processor, is intended to equip VR Ready mobiles but also autonomous headsets.


We will thus find it in the heart of ZenFone AR, a smartphone presented by Asus during its Zennovation conference. As the name suggests, the mobile is AR oriented with the support of Tango technology. But Asus doesn't stop there. The Taiwanese offers a unique configuration by combining AR and VR thanks to Tango and DayDream compatibility.

Despite sales of applications a little behind, the platform DayDream of Google continues to try to establish itself as a benchmark for mobile VR. New mobiles have thus been declared compatible. Alongside its Pixel range and the Moto Z and Z Force from Lenovo, Google certified the ZTE Axon 7, as well as the Huawei Mate 9 Pro and Mate 9 Porsche Design.

A sign of the potential of mobile VR, accessories are starting to emerge. Let us mention the Nolo VR, a position tracking system allowing to add Room Scale and motion control functionalities to all mobile virtual reality headsets.

Accessories to ensure the transition to the new generation


Once again, wireless seems to be setting itself the next standard. This development is after all quite natural. The clutter related to cables is a pitfall that manufacturers quickly tackle, once the innovative technology is installed. On the other hand, with ever increasing power, smartphones could eventually become competitors to domestic headsets like the HTC Vive or the Oculus Rift. Of course, mobile VR will not compete in terms of quality but in an emerging market, consumers will likely be more inclined to spend a few tens of euros for a headset that is used with a smartphone that they already own rather than '' invest in equipment exceeding the 1 euros / dollar mark.


While all these developments are anticipated by manufacturers, they nevertheless remain the domain of the future. For now, no new iterations of PS VR, Oculus Rift and HTC Vive on the horizon. While waiting for the arrival of the new generation of helmets from the pioneers of the market, the products currently available are improved thanks to various accessories.

During his conference, HTC shed light on three accessories supposed to improve the VR immersion experience offered by his headset. The first is not new since it is the TPCast, a peripheral allowing to remove the wire connection necessary for the operation of the headset. This device will now be available worldwide. Scalable Graphics also took advantage of CES to unveil an accessory with a similar purpose, the Kwik VR, this time compatible with the Vive and the Oculus.

HTC also took advantage of CES 2017 to present new straps for his helmet incorporating an audio headset. Finally, Vive Tracker, a sensor for integrating 3D objects into the VR environment. On the occasion of the demonstration of this product, other brands presented their products compatible with the Vive Tracker. We were thus able to discover the Hi5 VR Glove, a pair of gloves that track finger movements in the VR.

A little more original, a partnership between Fitbit and VirZOOM has given birth to an exercise bike connected to virtual reality, in order to allow indoor athletes to measure their activity within VR. Another accessory that is out of the ordinary, the Taclim. Under this name hides a pair of shoes imagined by the Japanese Cerevo. The accessory, still in prototype form, makes it more natural to move around in the RV.

As enticing as it is, wireless will certainly take some time to become a VR standard. PC manufacturers attending CES 2017 therefore continue to capitalize on the current need for a computer to run high-end headsets.. Acer offers a Predator 21 X, a VR ready laptop at the low price of 10 euros. The brand also has more accessible laptops in its boxes, such as the Aspire V Nitro Black Edition and Aspire VX. Asus offers a VR Ready desktop PC, the VivoPC X, which stands out for its small size and very light weight.

360 video goes UHD at CES 2017

Among the inseparable accessories of virtual reality, 360 cameras. Indeed, 360 content, often popularized as virtual reality, remains a privileged entry point when it comes to introducing newcomers to technology.

At CES 2017, we discovered Hubblo's VR Camera, a 3D livestream device that films in 4K for $ 1. In the same vein, the Chinese company Insta360 presented a camera allowing to shoot in 360 degrees with an exceptional definition. Indeed, the Insta360 Pro allows you to film in 8K, and to take videos in 3D while offering to livestream.

New competitors to the HoloLens

So far Microsoft's glasses seem to reign supreme in the AR market. Let Microsoft face it, this probably isn't going to last forever. New competitors are arriving and they are determined to make a name for themselves in a still young market.

During CES 2017, Osterhout Deisgn Group, pioneer of augmented reality, unveiled not one but two models of AR glasses, developed in partnership with Qualcomm, the R-8 and R-9. Powered by the Sapdragon 835, the glasses offer a mixed reality experience to be enjoyed on 720p and 1080p screens with 40 and 50 degree field of view, respectively for the R-8 and R-9 models. For his part, Lenovo introduced the New Glass C200, a pair of augmented reality glasses entirely intended for professional use.

New content to make up for the lack

At CES 2017, we didn't just discover new hardware. One of the main, and admittedly legitimate, criticisms of VR is the lack of content. You can quickly tour the experiences offered on the different stores. Of course, nothing maddening. Any technology begins with a certain slack period before being truly exploited from a software point of view. The CES 2017 in Las Vegas was the occasion for publishers to unveil new games and applications that promise to further improve the current offering.

On his stand, Sony thus exhibited Gran Turismo Sport, famous car simulation which will arrive on PS VR later this year.. The Fairpoint shooter was also playable, to highlight the functioning of the PS VR Aim Controller. If he has not presented a Vive 2, HTC has not skimped on the software demonstrations. At its stand, no less than 23 demonstrations were presented.

Digital Domain has presented an exclusive preview of its Monkey King VR series. The Nest, a futuristic shooter developed by Invrse Studios, tested users' patience. With the Mindshow experience, the VisionaryVR studio offers to create an animated cartoon in which you are the hero. Still in the entertainment sector, Arcade Saga, developed by 2Bears Studios, is an arcade game in which the player is an artificial intelligence that fights different threats imagined by humans. In Knockout League, you have to avoid the blows of your opponent and stay the last in the boxing ring.

More HTC offered more than entertainment. By addressing Companies , the Taiwanese brand wanted to show the potential of VR. We were thus able to discover the IBM Speech Sandbox, a voice command interface tool for designing, manipulating and destroying a virtual environment from the voice. In terms ofeducation, we will highlight the presence of The Life Project Engage, a free platform for teaching at a distance through virtual courses in VR.

Medtech was also in the spotlight at CES. Several applications were thus presented. The Body immerses the user inside a human body for educational purposes. OssoVR is a surgical training platform. The young French startup Simforhealth presented a virtual reality application designed to train medical students to the main medical emergencies that they may encounter during their career.

To conclude this CES 2017 on a lighter note, the dating app Tinder to present a VR headset for two people. Original? Certainly, but above all false. It was indeed a hoax. A great marketing operation with a noble goal: if reality can be virtual, love never is!



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