Back in May, HP announced the $ 600 Reverb G2 VR headset – a collaboration with Microsoft and Valve that appealed to both consumers and businesses. Now it’s chasing progressive businesses with an updated Omnicept edition of the hardware, adding several biometric sensors that make the already powerful Reverb G2 more useful for employee training and data analysis.
You can think of the Reverb G2 Omnicept Edition as the comparatively overwhelming response from HP to HTC’s Vive Pro Eye, which used Tobii eye-tracking sensors to enhance an already proficient premium VR headset. The Omnicept model includes not only Tobii’s eye tracking and pupillometry sensors, but also a heart rate monitor and face tracking camera system, as well as software support to allow third-party developers to create apps with all new sensors.
Companies can use the eye and pupil sensors to track user focus, enabling both attention analysis and foveated rendering. Over time, HP expects the face tracking system to allow VR users’ avatars to share live facial expressions during meetings and other social applications, reducing, if not eliminating, their typical stiffness.
The idea of tracking a VR user’s heartbeat seems either exaggerated or transcending biometrics at first, but the justifications for HP’s business training for the heart rate sensor are actually compelling. For example, developers are already building public speaking learning apps and flight simulators for the Omnicept Edition, with which users can manage and ultimately reduce their heart rate-measured stress in situations of cognitive stress.
Because the privacy impact of monitoring and collecting this data is so significant, HP designed the Omnicept Edition firmware to secure data as it was collected and to share it in accordance with GDPR requirements. Companies and partners apparently only get access to the data in an unidentified, aggregated and secure form, and the headset itself does not store any data. It remains to be seen whether these measures are adequate to protect users, although the collection of biometric data may appear less burdensome in corporate and training contexts, or indeed less than in broader consumer applications.
Most of the specifications and hardware of the Omnicept Edition – including 2,160 × 2,160 eye displays, Valve-designed lenses and speakers, and two wireless controllers – are virtually identical to the Reverb G2. However, the new model includes an upgraded headband with a pommel button for ratchet strength, as well as all of the new sensors that together will likely cost a pretty penny. Final pricing has yet to be announced, but just like the Vive Pro Eye added hundreds of dollars to the price of the Vive Pro, customers can expect the Omnicept Edition to be sold for a premium.
With the Omnicept Edition, HP is specifically targeting companies with identified requirements for biometric hardware and not individual consumers. There will be an option to buy the headset right now, but average users won’t be able to do anything with the biometric sensors without supporting software. However, the new model will be SteamVR compatible and therefore be able to run a wide variety of software beyond specially designed training applications.
The standard Reverb G2 will be delivered to dealers in October and should reach actual customers in early to mid-November. The release of the Reverb G2 Omnicept Edition is planned for spring 2021.