HP is teasing a followup to its Reverb virtual reality headset made in collaboration with Microsoft and Valve. The announcement coincides with Valve’s release of Half-Life: Alyx, the year’s most anticipated VR game. There’s little detail, but HP’s website calls its new headset “a more immersive, comfortable, and compatible experience” than the Reverb, and an email from the company calls it a “no-compromise VR headset.”
The $599 Reverb was part of Microsoft’s Windows Mixed Reality lineup, known for its high-resolution screen. HP’s reference to a “new standard in VR” suggests it’s not competing with the cheapest VR devices, like the $399 Oculus Rift S. But it might not cost as much as Valve’s $999 Index, either. There’s no release date, though, so we don’t know if it will mitigate the current headset shortage — or if it might be delayed because of the coronavirus pandemic, which has slowed production of existing Valve and Oculus products.
Valve’s SteamVR platform already supports Windows Mixed Reality headsets alongside other products from Oculus and HTC. And the headset looks similar to the old Reverb, with two black spots that imply the use of Windows Mixed Reality tracking cameras, rather than SteamVR-style external tracking beacons. So we’re not sure what this specific Microsoft / Valve / HP collaboration entails.
I will note, however, that Windows Mixed Reality has a convenient tracking system and mediocre controllers, while the Valve Index has an inconvenient tracking system and the best controllers in VR. Valve’s current controllers can’t work with HP’s tracking system. But their most distinctive features use internal sensors, not SteamVR beacons — and expanding those beyond the Index would be good for everyone involved.