VR Digest: Google hires half of HTC

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written by John Dewar (@jstarrdewar) Issue 138 – September 21, 2017

VR Digest: A Virtual Reality newsletter brought to you by Studio Transcendent

Google Hires Half of HTC

HTC has fallen on hard times and rumors have been swirling that they intended to sell off parts of their business. Palmer Luckey even floated the idea of purchasing the Vive business on Twitter.

Wednesday, we got a surprising outcome. Google is hiring half of HTC’s engineers for its Pixel phone project, paying HTC $1.1 Billion for the hire along with a nonexclusive license to relevant HTC technologies. HTC is keeping its brand, roughly half of its design and engineering team and, according to its press release, will continue to develop a “streamlined” portfolio of phones and the Vive.

The move marks a shift for Google, which famously purchased Motorola and then resold it to Lenovo three years later, losing nearly $10 billion in the process (they kept a few patents so it may not have been a total loss). They are back in the hardware game now. The difference is now the hardware will be Google-branded.

It doesn’t sound like a particularly winning move for HTC, but maybe it will buy time for the Vive business to expand. Palmer Luckey tweeted that he would be on the Vive stage during the Tokyo Game Show, which started Wednesday, so maybe we’ll hear his thoughts on the matter.


Tested went hands-on with the Pimax 8K VR Headset. They seemed fairly impressed, but apparently there were significant issues with the shape of the image on the sides. As we mentioned last week, problems with lens de-distortion has been an issue with all of the similar headsets we’ve tried so far, such as the StarVR. Another note is that the 8K version of the headset will rely on an upscaler because an 8K signal can’t be sent over a single cable. A future version will offer true 8K with two cables, but that may need specialized software support.

Although some feel that VR is in a slump, Adam Draper, Founder and Managing Director of accelerator Boost VC, says that this is a great time to invest. Draper asserts that VR and AR are still in early growth stages. A recent Forbes article reports that his next accelerator tribe is 70% VR companies. [Forbes]

Microsoft announced a ‘Mixed Reality event’ on October 3rd. This is shortly before the release of the Fall Creators Update for Windows 10 on October 17th. That will enable the use of the new headsets. [UploadVR]

HTC has announced its partnership with Dalian Television and Beijing Cyber Cloud to launch the world's first cloud VR service for a commercial trial in Dalian, China. The user’s Vive will be connected to a set-top box with full access to the carrier's VR content store, eliminating the need to invest in an expensive computer. The service will cost roughly $75 a month, and users have an option to purchase the Vive outright. This is interesting, but it’s hard to imagine that the motion-to-photons latency would be acceptable. [Engadget]

An Oculus blog post discusses advances in audio used in VR. They are near-field head-related transfer functions, which allow developers to “model sounds much closer than one meter away with a greater degree of accuracy,” and the ability to specify the apparent size of an audio source to simulate large sound sources like waterfalls.

With the launch of iOS 11, AR apps are now available on the Apple App Store. Road to VR has highlighted a few.

LG has published a patent for a diffuser that will help get rid of the “screen door effect”, the visible gaps between pixels in a VR headset’s display. The patent states that the new solution involves a “light diffusion member” that is placed between the display panel and the lenses which “diffuses light emitted from a light-transmitting area of a display panel to a light-blocking area of the display panel” and “improves the image quality of the display.”

This is a fairly obvious idea, and in the Oculus Developer Kit days, several users experimented with homebrew versions of this solution by putting screen protectors on the display inside the headset. It’s not necessarily a good thing that LG has such a broad patent, but hopefully their new SteamVR headset will incorporate the diffuser. The headset was shown off this week at the Korean Game Festival. [UploadVR]

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