Qualcomm & HTC Offer Vive WAVE Platform to Snapdragon VR Headsets

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HTC has announced that it will offer its Vive WAVE mobile VR platform to all Snapdragon-based headsets. The move means that headset makers will be able to adopt HTC’s ready-made headset OS (instead of developing their own) and gain instant content compatibility with a pre-existing VR app ecosystem.

HTC announced its Vive Wave platform back in 2017. It’s effectively the company’s own VR ‘operating system’ based on Android.

Just like how Android means that smartphone makers can focus on hardware but tap into a common OS to make their smartphone compatible with any apps that built for that OS, Vive Wave lowers the barrier to entry for firms wanting to build a mobile VR headset without the challenges of developing a proprietary OS and convincing app developers to build content for it.

While this is effectively what Google attempted to do with Daydream (the VR component of Android) Google has effectively abandoned the platform.

HTC is strengthening its commitment to Vive Wave (and also filling the void left by Daydream); the company announced last week that it has entered into an agreement with Qualcomm—which makes the chips in just about every major mobile VR headset—to optimize Vive Wave specifically for Snapdragon, and to offer the platform to anyone building a headset based on Snapdragon chips, the likes of which include Qualcomm’s latest XR2 chip which is made specifically for the needs of AR and VR headsets.

As part of the agreement, HTC is also promising to “offer testing and support for new deployments of the Wave platform,” meaning they will support headset makers in optimizing Vive Wave for their device.

Vive Wave isn’t particularly popular in the West, where Oculus’ Quest is seen as the leading standalone VR headset, but the platform has been adopted by a handful of lesser known headset makes like Pico, iQiYi, Shadow Creator, and DPVR. And of course the platform is the foundation of HTC’s own Vive Focus standalone headsets.

While Vive Wave is presently found mostly on standalone headsets, the software can also function as the basis for VR ‘viewer’ headsets, which are those that have no on-board compute but instead tether to a smartphone to handle processing and rendering. Vive Wave can also be used for AR headsets, HTC says.

Beyond just being a ready-made VR ‘operating system’, Vive Wave also allows headsets to be part of a collective app ecosystem (Viveport mobile) which represents a larger audience for developers than if each headset had its own APIs and content stores that developers must individually build for. While, like Android smartphones, developers will need to be cognizant of differences in performance and capabilities among headsets, building apps for a singular API is generally preferable to juggling several.

This is the same approach that Valve has taken with OpenVR on PC, which allows developers to build one version of their app which can run on many SteamVR headsets without additional modification.

While Vive Wave was purportedly already ‘openly’ available prior to this announcement, the closer association with Qualcomm—and the commitment that HTC will support testing and optimization—strengthens the position of the platform and, the company hopes, will boost adoption among future headsets.

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