Update, Wednesday April 21st, 05:20AM ET: HTC says the Vive Air is “only a concept,” not an upcoming product. You can read the company’s full statement here.
Images of an upcoming fitness-focused virtual reality headset from HTC, dubbed the Vive Air, have leaked online. Details about the product were published by the World Design Guide (which we spotted via Engadget) as part of its annual awards. It seems likely the product will be unveiled officially at HTC’s upcoming ViveCon 2021 on May 11th and 12th.
The Vive Air is “specially designed for virtual fitness” and “optimized for high intensity with long use,” says the copy on the World Design Guide’s website. The headset is built from fast-drying knitted fabrics inspired by sports shoes, which are supposed to be lightweight and breathable. A quick-release design allows these “ergonomic soft components” to be removed for washing. The site says the Vive Air will launch sometime in 2021.
It certainly seems like a well-positioned product as VR is becoming increasingly popular for fitness activities during global lockdown. Just this month, The Verge interviewed the creator of popular VR workout app Supernatural who claimed that “fitness is the killer use case for VR” and that workout software “will be the first driving force of mass adoption [of virtual reality] through a normal consumer audience.” Creating a comfortable, lightweight headset that doesn’t stink of sweat after a week or two seems like a no-brainer.
Can a sports-focused VR headset prove a hit for HTC, though? The company’s original Vive headset helped create the most recent iteration of the VR market when it launched in 2016, but the firm’s hardware has since been overtaken by competitors like Oculus. Narrowing down on a specific (and growing) use case could be a smart way forward for the company.