HTC has struggled to remain relevant in smartphones, but it’s still hanging on in virtual reality. While Oculus has seen massive success with the Quest, HTC is planning for the future with the Vive “Project Proton” concepts. The company showed off Project Proton alongside the updated Cosmos VR headset lineup, but unlike the latter, Proton isn’t ready for prime time. If these headsets ever do launch, they could really change the game.
HTC has a pair of Proton concepts. There’s an all-in-one model and a two-in-one, which requires an external device like a phone or computer. HTC CEO Yves Maitre says the new headsets will be “really, really close to normal glasses.” While the renders do look much slimmer than current-gen headsets, comparing them with non-smart glasses is a bit of stretch.
The all-in-one headset has a pair of cameras, presumably for inside-out tracking. That’s fewer than something like the Oculus Quest, but it’s possible HTC believes the technology will improve by the time Proton comes to market. It uses a modified halo-type head strap with no band across the top of the head. The strap doesn’t attach quite as high on the headset because it’s counterbalanced by the processing hardware on the back. Putting the “brain” of the headset back there should distribute the weight more evenly and make it more comfortable. Quest users often use small battery packs clipped to the back of the headset to change the weight distribution.
The two-in-one version of Proton looks similar from the front, but it has a simpler strap that resembles standard eyeglass temples. A cable emerges from one of the supports where they would wrap around the head. Considering this is a single cable, that’s probably a USB Type-C — that’s the cable Oculus uses on the Quest, allowing it to connect to PCs for both power and video. The display section of the headset has the same dual-camera setup, but it lacks the integrated speakers of the all-in-one design.
HTC hasn’t provided any information about the internals, display tech, or pricing for these headsets. In all likelihood, they don’t even exist as prototypes yet. HTC is hemorrhaging money every quarter. It’s uncertain if the company can even remain afloat long enough to bring these ambitious designs to market.