HTC Vive Pro Gets Augmented Reality Features

A software update for the recently released HTC Vive Pro virtual reality head-mounted display unlocks the ability for developers to create augmented reality games and experiences for the gear.

The update allows developers to make use the Pro’s two front-mounted cameras to stream live video onto the displays, which can then have images overlaid on top of them in real-time, created augmented reality scenes. Unlike virtual reality, which completely creates everything the user sees, augmented reality adds images to a real scene.

The Vive SRWorks SDK is currently in early access and adds the ability for the hardware to perform 3D scans of the room a person is in and depth sensing, according to Vive. This allows developers to place virtual objects both in the foreground and background of a real-world setting and create live interactions with virtual objects using hand interactions. The new software supports both Unity and Unreal engines.

A number of video examples of the tech in use are available on the site. One example, showing off how the tech can be used to drop a cartoon blowfish into the real world, is below.

The HTC Vive Pro HMD, which started shipping this month for $799 for just the headset or $1,099 for a starter kit, increases the resolution of the original Vive by 78%, adds 3D spatial audio through built-in headphones and includes two built-in microphones and better light-blocking.

Vive will be getting a wireless adapter soon as well, making it possible to use VR without having to worry about being physically tethered to your computer. The Vive wireless adapter will be powered by Intel’s WiGig Wireless and a Li-Ion battery. The company says on the official website for the Pro that it’s coming soon.

Also coming soon, are base stations that will allow a person to increase the size of their trackable playspace from 15 foot by 15 foot to 32 foot by 32 foot. The new base stations will also be able to track multiple users at the same time. HTC calls this Steam VR 2.0 tracking and when it hits, along with the wireless adapter, users will finally have a HTC Vive 2.0.

The addition of AR to the virtual reality headset expands Vive’s offering into a space that Apple and Google are battling over. Apple, in particular, continues to push the advantages of AR over VR. The iPhone supports a light form of AR and it is speculated that Apple is working on its own AR glasses.

The tech still doesn’t provide the same sort of experiences that secretive start-up Magic Leap promises with its mixed-reality Lightwear goggles. Magic Leap recently started sending out development kits to a select group of developers who can show they’ll keep the tech in a locked safe when not in use.

Read more about Magic Leap in Rolling Stone’s hands-on experience with the tech at the Florida company.

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