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Former HTC top exec announces a 5G-enabled social VR headset

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In context: A couple of years after stepping down as CEO of HTC, Peter Chou founded XRSpace, a virtual reality startup. Not much was known about it until today when the conmpany announced a new VR headset and virtual world.

XRSpace’s Mova headset is a standalone device similar to the Oculus Quest. It features hand tracking, which Oculus just recently rolled out for the Quest. Powered by a Snapdragon 845, the Mova also has support for 5G, so users can take it anywhere and still be connected.

The headset looks similar to a Quest except has dual cameras up front used for hand tracking and spacial monitoring rather than IR sensors. It comes in white and orange, the latter of which makes it look like a Mattel View-Master. Other than that, XRSpace has not released any other specs.

Peter Chou and company president Sting Tao intend to separate their device from the crowd by focusing on making the Mova a “social” platform.

“XRSpace aims to create the social reality of the future – a world where people can interact both physically and virtually in a way that is contextual, familiar, immersive, interactive and personal,” the company said in its announcement.

To this end XRSpace has developed a virtual world it calls Manova. The concept looks very much like what Second Life creator Linden Labs would have come up with had it not trashed the Sansar VR platform earlier this year.

Manova is like a virtual city where people can hang out and do things together. It also has “private spaces” for those times where users might want to limit the social noise around them. Sony had a similar experience called PlayStation Home, which never really took off even though it was in open beta for seven years.

Chou hopes that creating something similar in VR will have more appeal.

“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,” said the founder.

The virtual city will have stores, nightclubs, beaches, theaters, and more. You can meet people you don’t know throughout the world, just like in the defunct PlayStation Home or Second Life. You can invite friends and meet them anywhere, including your virtual apartment.

“During this global lockdown, we all witnessed first-hand the importance of togetherness. In the XRSPACE MANOVA, we’ve created a lifelike digital avatar, social gestures, and plenty of places where people can be together, experience everyday social situations without the limits of distance,” Tao added.

XRSpace is taking a gamble by focusing solely on the social VR experience. On the one hand, the market is virtually untapped, as we pointed out in our recent social VR feature. However, the company has partnered with third-party content providers like Resolution Games, Angry Birds, Digital Domain, and others. If Chou and Tao hit on something here, XRSpace will be in on the ground floor of a social experiment that could revolutionize social media. But that’s a lot to expect.

On the other hand, social virtual worlds in general seem to have limited appeal. With no objective, the experience is not much different from going to the mall, except that you aren’t actually going to the mall. Just like the experience itself, the rewards are virtual. It will be interesting to see if XRSpace can pull it off and offer something in which people genuinely want to participate.

Another potential sticking point is the price. The Mova will retail for around $600, which is $100 more than the 128GB Oculus Quest and $200 more than the 64GB model. Not to mention that XRSpace has not even revealed comparable specs.

The company did not have a specific release date to share, only saying it is expecting a Q3 2020 launch. So not too long before we can see if it takes off.



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Written by sortiwa

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