Second-Gen Valve/HTC VR Dev Kit Revealed, Comes With Peephole Camera

New "Vive Pre" model sent to developers; Features front-facing camera.

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Just four months ahead of the general release of the Vive virtual reality headset, manufacturer HTC has revealed a redesigned second-gen dev kit.

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Known as the Vive Pre, the newer developer model will not be available to the public. However, the launch units of the consumer model (set to ship in April) is expected to incorporate some of Vive Pre's new features and technologies.

The standout new feature of Vive Pre is its front-facing camera, which, for convenience, can act as a peephole when players want to see what's in front of them.

"Being able to take a seat, find your drink, and carry on conversations without removing your headset is only the beginning of what's possible," HTC said.

The camera could also open up possibility of blending physical elements into a virtual space, essentially mixing augmented reality with VR, in a manner slightly reminiscent of Microsoft's HoloLens.

HTC's Vive Pre, featuring a new front-facing camera and controllers.
HTC's Vive Pre, featuring a new front-facing camera and controllers.

Meanwhile, Vive's controllers have also undergone numerous tweaks, and now feature "updated ergonomics and softer edges, greater balance," as well as textured buttons and grip pads. The controllers also include rechargeable lithium polymer batteries, which can last for about 4 hours on a full charge.

It is not clear yet whether the HTC Vive consumer model will incorporate the new controller and front-facing camera, or at least elements of these.

Elsewhere, the Pre model is also said to be "more compact and features an updated strap design that provides greater stability and balance."

According to HTC, the new display is brighter with increased clarity, though the company has not revealed display specs yet.

"On the inside of the headset, interchangeable foam inserts and nose gaskets mean the Vive Pre fits comfortably and securely to the user," HTC said.

"Vive Pre can also be easily adjusted to suit a variety of facial shapes while remaining compatible with a variety of eyeglasses."

HTC's Vive headset has been developed in collaboration with Valve, which in particular has helped in terms of software and middleware support. Vive is said to be the first virtual reality headset that "fully" supports SteamVR.

Other headsets, such as Oculus Rift and Fove, will also support SteamVR.

The HTC Vive consumer model was originally intended for a 2015 release, but the VR headset was recently delayed until April 2016. At the end of December, HTC said part of the reason why it delayed the device was because the company made a "very, very big technological breakthrough." It appears the Vive Pre is that very breakthrough.

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