By John P. Mello Jr.
May 27, 2020 10:28 AM PT
A new virtual reality headset designed for mobility will serve as an entry point into a new virtual world, its maker announced Tuesday.
The US$599 Mova headset from XRSpace, founded by former HTC chief Peter Chou, will support 5G and be the exclusive on-ramp to Manova, a social reality platform that aims to defy the boundaries of space and time to bring people together.
Users can roam Manova as full-body avatars with a user’s personal features to socialize, work and play in a number of public and private spaces, according to XRSpace.
The battery-powered Mova headset is built around the Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 processor. The unit comes in two colors, white and orange. It is 20 percent lighter than any other VR headset on the market, XRSpace claims.
It pairs a set of optical sensors with proprietary scanning technology that allows hand gestures to control objects and navigate virtual worlds.
“Gestures are getting better and are a more natural way to control the headset,” said Kevin Krewell, principal analyst at Tirias Research, a high-tech research and advisory firm based in Phoenix, Arizona.
XRSpace touts the absence of wires and controllers in its promotional material for Mova, but it’s likely that controllers will be introduced later to provide the more accurate control needed for some games and detailed work, he told TechNewsWorld.
Mova also has space scanning applications for creating real world physical locations inside the device.
“Our mission is to bring people together through the power of 5G XR, surpassing the limited experience of smartphones today,” Chou said. “The singular goal of XRSpace is to take XR to the masses by redefining how people connect, socialize, and collaborate by simplifying the hardware and user experience.”
Not Priced for Masses
There are some doubters about XRSpace taking virtual and augmented reality to the masses, considering the Mova’s $599 price tag.
“VR is already a niche market,” said Tuong Nguyen, senior principal analyst at Gartner, a research and advisory company based in Stamford, Connecticut.
“Six hundred dollars will limit the headset to niche adopters, so XRSpace is going for a niche within a niche,” he told TechNewsWorld. “I don’t expect it to get much traction.”
VR is having a moment right now, as people look for new experiences due to the isolation wrought by the pandemic over the past few months, observed Ross Rubin, principal analyst at Reticle Research, a consumer technology advisory firm in New York City.
However, that moment could be fleeting.
“In general, it hasn’t reached the mainstream,” Rubin told TechNewsWorld. “Part of that is due to price, so this is not going to be a democratizing headset.”
Introducing an expensive VR headset at this time could be risky business for XRSpace.
“I think it is a big gamble. The trend is toward relatively less expensive headsets to hit more mainstream adoption price points,” Krewell said.
“It’s a huge gamble to go with a new hardware release,” maintained J. P. Gownder, principal analyst at Forrester Research, a market research company headquartered in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
“Although the founder has a background in hardware at HTC, VR is a terribly tricky — and disappointing — market for consumers,” he told TechNewsWorld. “Oculus and HTC Vive have spent years honing their offerings and, as importantly, their relationships with developers.”
Developers can make or break headset sales, Tirias’ Krewell noted.
“XRSpace has to face off with more established VR competitors who already have a pretty good library of content,” he said. “As we’ve seen with the launch of Half Life: Alyx, good content can drive more headset sales.”
Made With Mobility in Mind
The addition of 5G to Mova’s repertoire may be a mixed bag for the device.
5G eventually will be a boon for virtual reality because it will deliver high bandwidth and massive collaborative experiences with low latency, Gartner’s Nguyen noted.
“If you look at where we are in 5G, we’re barely getting started. Including 5G is reasonable, but how many people who buy the headset are going to be able to use 5G?” he wondered.
“It’s hard to judge how 5G will appeal to consumers,” said Krewell. “5G is just rolling out, but it’s important to the sales channels of the wireless carriers. The Mova headset may well be sold bundled with a 5G data plan subsidy.”
The Mova clearly is designed with mobility in mind, observed David MacQueen, executive director for the global wireless practice at Strategy Analytics, a research, advisory and analytics firm based in Newton, Massachusetts.
“The inclusion of 5G and using gesture control as the default means you don’t have to carry controllers around,” he told TechNewsWorld.
AR, VR Convergence
It’s unusual that Mova was launched with a single, consumer-focused application, suggested MacQueen.
“The use-cases for VR which require mobility tend not to be consumer, and are more in the prosumer and enterprise areas, for uses such as drone control,” he explained.
There is an opportunity for the headset with mobile carriers, MacQueen noted. “Many carriers are looking to VR to demonstrate the benefits of 5G, and as one of the first headsets to feature VR connectivity, Mova could see some traction amongst carriers.”
How the carriers position the device likely will depend on their local markets, he explained. In China, where home PC and console ownership is very low, and carriers often have well-developed consumer content plays, a standalone device with built-in connectivity may fare well. In North America and Western Europe, it might struggle as a consumer device.
The price point of the headset is high, MacQueen acknowledged, “but the component cost must be relatively high, too. The 5G connectivity module is likely to be the main driver of the high price relative to the competition right now.”
Many VR headsets will have 5G in the future, Rubin said.
“It makes sense for augmented reality because that experience can take place anywhere,” he pointed out.
“For virtual reality, because it’s a more immersive experience that tends to take place in the confines of a room, 5G may not be as critical,” Rubin said.
“It’s widely accepted by companies on both VR and AR sides of this technology that the two will converge,” he continued.”Today we think of VR as this thing where you have blinders on, and you’re creating a world unto itself, whereas augmented reality takes place in the real world with overlays of digital objects. In the future, there will be more of a spectrum of experiences.”