The Vive Pro Eye made its debut at CES 2019, Las Vegas, back in January of this year. Being one of the lucky few able to try the new head-mounted display (HMD) first-hand at the event, I came away thinking that eye-tracking is a significant and almost-necessary addition to the current slate of virtual reality (VR) assets, however I also realised that such an integration wouldn’t be cheap. With today’s news however, it has become clear that I had no idea exactly how costly such an addition could be.
Launching today in Europe, the Vive Pro Eye is available now via vive.com for an eye-watering (pun intended) £1,499 GBP. That’s a lot of money. Furthermore, with the recent announcement of the Valve Index and the imminent launch of the much more wallet-friendly Rift S from Oculus, there’s a great deal more competition for high-end VR now than ever before.
For the sake of clarity, the Vive Pro Eye price does include all of the essential HTC Vive accessories. Bundled with the HMD is the following:
- Base Station 2.0 x 2
- Base Station power adapter x 2
- Link box
- Mounting kit
- USB 3.0 cable
- DisplayPort™ cable
- Link box power adapter
- Headset with headset cable
- Cleaning cloth
- Earphone hole cap x 2
- Controller (2018) (with lanyard) × 2
- Power adapter x 2
- Micro-USB cable x 2
So that’s everything you need to get stated. But who exactly is ‘you’? According to HTC, the Vive Pro Eye is very squarely targeted at the enterprise sector.
“The Vive Pro Eye, which was unveiled earlier this year at CES 2019, features the latest in eye tracking technology and sets the standard for enterprise VR,” reads Vive’s official press release. “For business customers in Europe, the Vive Pro Eye will be bundled with Advantage, an enterprise licence and 2-year warranty for commercial use. Advantage, priced at £165 (excluding VAT) also offers dedicated support and service utilities for Vive Enterprise products.”
Advantage is essentially the buy-in required to use newer Vive HMDs for enterprise means (opposed to development or consumer based used) but does include a number of additional benefits: 2-year warranty, 24-hour e-mail response, expedited repair service etc. However, this £165 GBP (plus VAT) is charged in addition to the £1,499 HMD price-tag. This only affects enterprise customers of course, but as stated above it’s this sector that the Vive Pro Eye bis aimed at.
So, what about those consumers with money to burn that want to upgrade their HMD? Well, at present there is no standalone HMD purchase option for the Vive Pro Eye. If you already own a HTC Vive or HTC Vive Pro, you can’t simply switch in the new HMD (as the Valve Index will allow for). Instead, you have to purchase the full kit anew. This of course makes sense given that the Vive Pro Eye is being positioned as a starting point for enterprise customers looking to work with VR for the first time, but severely limits that small group of consumers who might wish to invest in the hardware.
Ultimately, this makes the Vive Pro Eye a system that, for many developers, won’t impact the market at all. It’s not intended to expand the mass market audience for entertainment product, nor is it delivering new creative content opportunities to the developers producing software for that sector. While it could be argued that development for the Valve Index and Oculus Quest is an easy step to make – and that you shouldn’t ignore the Rift S for that matter – the Vive Pro Eye is most definitely a bigger leap of faith.