The HTC VIVE Cosmos Elite. HTC
Years ago, I was privy to many of the original Oculus Rift and HTC VIVE development milestones, since both companies worked so closely with NVIDIA and AMD and I am deeply entrenched in the GPU space. For better or worse, I got to test a number of early development vehicles at various GPU-related events, which were fun, but didn’t leave me with a good impression. The early development vehicles were far from comfortable or ergonomic and their early screens were much more likely to cause motion sickness (at least for me). When the time came for retail-ready versions of the Rift and VIVE to hit the scene, however, my opinions had changed. When I reviewed the original HTC VIVE, I was enamored by the experience (and my kids were too). There were days during the review process that I spent hours inside VR and when it was time to send the sample back, I missed it.
Since then the VR market has matured significantly. The application ecosystems and HMDs have all advanced considerably, and standalone solutions for less demanding content are also available. It was a recent experience with the HTC VIVE Cosmos Elite and some of the latest applications – like Half-Life: Alyx, for example – that spurred this post.
The HTC VIVE Cosmos Elite
The HTC VIVE Cosmos Elite is the company’s latest flagship, room-scale VR solution. It is essentially an across the board upgrade over previous-gen VIVE products, not only in terms of its technical specifications, but usability and comfort as well.
HTC VIVE Cosmos Specifications. MARCO CHIAPPETTA
If you have any experience with previous-gen HMDs, you’ll have seen the “screen door effect” that’s visible in some situations and you may have thought the display contrast was poor or the headset wasn’t particularly comfortable. The VIVE Cosmos Elite addresses all of these concerns with higher-resolution and higher-contrast OLED displays, better optics and a more adjustable, balanced HMD, that also flips-up, so you don’t have to completely remove it to come back to reality. There are other versions of the Cosmos available as well, that offer inside-out tracking and don’t require the room-scale sensors to detect motion. A wireless add-on is also available.
My experience using the VIVE Cosmos was head and shoulders superior to previous-gen solutions. In addition, since the first wave of HMDs hit, PCs have gotten much more powerful, while producers of VR HMDs have simultaneously gotten much better as masking or hiding latency. The combination of higher-performance PCs, more ergonomic HMDs with better display technology, and improved software all-around have elevated the VR experience considerably. If your impressions of VR were cemented with the initial wave of products, it’s time to try some newer ones.
HTC Is Currently Bundling Half Life: Alyx With The VIVE Cosmos Elite.HTC
You Still Need A Beefy PC
I am a long-time PC enthusiast and have access to powerful PC components. While there are quite a few standalone VR solutions available now, I still prefer the deeper content available for tethered VR solutions – like the VIVE Cosmos – that require a gaming PC. The minimum specs for the VIVE call for an Intel Core i5-4590 or AMD FX 8350 equivalent (or better) processors, NVIDIA GeForce GTX 970 or AMD Radeon R9 290 4GB (or better) graphics cards, and at least 4GB of RAM. In a word, those minimum specs are outdated and somewhat comical.
Yes, if you have a PC with similar innards, it’ll due for some VR content, but modern, more demanding titles require more horsepower. A Core i5 or Ryzen 5 processor is fine, but you’ll want 16GB of RAM minimum in a current-gen PC. A GeForce GTX 10-series (think 1060 or better) or Radeon RX Vega 56 or better should also have you covered, but the more GPU you can throw at a VR setup, the smoother and more consistent framerates will be, which will keep latency down, and help minimize the chance of visual anomalies that can ruin the immersion or worse, cause motion sickness.
Getting to play a title like Half Life: Alyx on a powerful PC, with the VIVE Cosmos, was phenomenal. I know I’m a little late to the game, but the experience was so good, I needed to write about it. Half Life: Alyx is set between the events of the original Half-Life and Half-Life 2. Alyx and her father Eli Vance do battle with aliens occupying earth in an effort to take control of a superweapon. It’s a shooter in the same spirit as earlier Half Life titles, which are some of the best to ever hit the PC. I’m not going to give anymore of the story away, but suffice it to say, Half Life: Alyx may be VR’s killer app – it’s that good. It also happens to be bundled with the VIVE Cosmos Elite at the moment.
Half-Life: Alyx Screenshot. VALVE
VR Isn’t Just About Games
I can’t not talk about VR and not consider the current COVID-19 pandemic and how it’s disrupted the way many of us have to work and play. VR solutions like the HTC VIVE Cosmos also offer potential solutions for meetings and physical fitness. HTC actually launched its VIVE Sync product a few weeks back that is essentially a virtual meeting space, with things like digital display boards, speech-to-text support, full-body 3D avatars, and name cards that automatically pop-up when someone enters a meeting room.
VIVE Sync Virtual Meeting Space. HTC
There is also a myriad of high-intensity games that can help users get in some cardio and burn a few calories while they’re at it. Beat Saber is popular amongst some of my other tech-minded colleagues, for example, but there are others that require plenty of ducking and arm flailing, that provide surprisingly good work outs. In the real world, I’m partial to boxing, and there are a number of boxing related games available, like BoxVR or The Fastest Fist that are quite fun. Doing mitt work in real-life is a favorite physical activity of mine, so The Fastest Fist has been an interesting diversion to say the least.
If you’re considering giving VR a try, now may be the time. Like all things tech, the market is constantly advancing and there’s always something interesting on the horizon, but many of today’s apps and solutions like the VIVE Cosmos Elite are vastly superior than what was available even just a short time ago.