HTC Vive may be known as a gaming device, but HTC's vision for the virtual reality headset extends beyond this single vertical.
"I can say that's a core part of our mission," said Marc Metis, Global Head of Vive X at HTC Vive, about bringing the Vive to more sectors. "Enterprise, medical, education [are] really important to what we do as a company."
"There's more activity going on than might be publicly noted," Metis continued. "We're doing a tremendous amount of work in enterprise, doing work with top companies in the world, in automotive design, furniture, you name it. We've invested in companies in medical, we have active developments in education. We believe VR can change many different industries, and over time you'll see more and more of that publicly noted."
Aurora AR optics module
We spoke with Metis in the lead up to Vive X Demo Day, an opportunity for 26 of the $100-million accelerator program's startups to pitch their companies to investors and demo their applications.
These are early stage efforts and most won't come to market any time soon, but they serve as a window into the various applications for Vive's future Metis referred to in addition to the whole of VR and AR.
"At Vive X you'll see the early stage companies that are on the cutting edge in each of these areas," Metis said. "[With Vive X] we have the ability to commercialize and scale these companies to help change these industries."
ThermoReal brings hot, cold and pain sensations to VR and AR
HTC started Vive X to expand the overall VR and AR ecosystem. It's open and agnostic, meaning companies can develop solutions for any hardware. This was on display at Demo Day, with startups showing programs using Microsoft HoloLens, their own prototypes and speaking about developing for all platforms.
The startups at Demo Day are part of Vive X's second batch of companies receiving funding and support through the program. They consisted of companies working on solutions for enterprise, social, medical and education as well as gaming.
Getting into Vive X is a feat in itself; HTC can't reveal how many applications it receives, but the acceptance rate is less than 5%.
Startups at today's event included Hyperfair, a social VR solution for enterprise, Realiteer, which has developed a therapeutic VR program for treating mental health issues, Opaque Space, a space simulator to help train astronauts, Popmatch, a VR eSports offering, and ThermoReal, which brings hot, cold and pain sensations into virtual and augmented reality experiences.
Other standouts included bHaptic, which uses several accessories to provide haptic feedback, namely through the chest, back, forehead and forearms. Aurora AR is developing an augmented reality optics lens, one that provides a 135-degree field of view, works in daylight and allows for less expensive AR headsets. Aurora AR plans to begin selling the product in November.
Aurora AR's prototype augmented reality headset
While there was some overlap between startups, they generally had a unique spin on a service or solution for VR or AR. Every one is seeking $1 million or more in funding, and some are further along than others, but the each felt very much within reach.
Metis highlighted some of the strategic verticals in batch two, areas that HTC also wants to see the Vive excel in.
"Enterprise, education, commerce - areas we feel have been under served - those particular key verticals. Medical is another one," he said. "We see them being big multi-billion dollar verticals, and we’re on a mission to find companies in these key verticals. That’s a key focus for us."