A Look at Vive Cosmos Play and Vive Cosmos Elite
After releasing the HTC Vive Pro in 2018, Valve comes up with another HMD a year later called the Vive Cosmos. This new headset introduces a new concept in terms of ergonomics and interchangeability. It seems that Valve is pushing to make it's headsets flexible with the option of customization based on user/gamer preferences. Aside from the original Cosmos model initially released, three more Vive Cosmos headsets are coming out as well. These HMD models classified within the Cosmos series will have similar if not the same basic capabilities while being able to adapt and use upgrade peripherals in an upward compatible environment.
There are four currently known models. The original Vive Cosmos, the basic level Cosmos Play, the competitive Cosmos Elite and the AR/VR developer model Cosmos XR. What sets the Cosmos VR series apart from the other Vive HMD models is it's faceplate upgrade technology. Also, the series has the option to make use of both internal inside-out tracking or depend on the usual but more accurate Vive Lighthouse dual base tracking system. Also, compared to the preceding Vive headsets, HTC-Valve as mentioned has implemented a more user friendly design like being able to flip the front of the headset outward (just like a visor) should the user despite the supplied pass-through cameras need to see the immediate surroundings quickly without the need to remove the headset and put it back on again.
The Vive Cosmos besides it's refreshingly new approach to HMD usability will have to address and overcome a few issues and limitations which have cropped up during it's initial testing and use. This however seems to be an ongoing process as Valve releases the series into the consumer market while continually providing upgrades and fixes to improve and maximize the product. Note however, that regardless of all the new design innovation, Valve headsets are currently still very much a tethered and high-end PC based technology (though a wireless adapter is an option). This is to maintain the top quality and VR realism which sets HTC Vive apart from the other high-end HMD OPMs.
As compared to the currently competitive Vive Pro which uses a display resolution of 1400 x 1600 per eye, the Cosmos series has an upgraded 1440 x 1700 pixels per eye providing better visual quality than the former. Also, while both the Pro and Pro Eye makes use of only two forward facing cameras, the Cosmos can range from the basic four to six thus increasing both it's tracking and visual pass-through quality. The Cosmos can also either use the basic Vive controllers or the more advanced models and the Vive wands but then, this would depend on the configuration of the Cosmos headset being used.
Currently, aside from the initial Cosmos model that was released, Valve is releasing the Cosmos Elite this Feb.- Mar. 2020 to be followed by the Cosmos Play which is the basic beginner based Cosmos model and will be the cheapest in terms of price. At first glance, these two may look way different from each other but the basic idea is to be able to have the option to primarily upgrade the Cosmos Play to the competitive Elite by simply swapping the front-end face plate of the HMD to that being used by the Elite. What more, Cosmos models will have the option to use either inside-out tracking or IR external tracking (via two Lighthouse base stations) by again swapping the front-end face plate with that which is specifically designed for the particular use. This will cost an approximate 200USD additional for the specialized face plate and again a separate cost for the base stations and controllers if it didn't come bundled with the HMD. On the plus side, if one already has the stations and peripherals from the Vive, the Pro or the Index, the Cosmos models can use them as well.
There really isn't that much to expect from the Cosmos Play as it is a basic model which can provide an improvement in gaming and usage with the additional power of inside-out tracking and more front-end cameras for better performance as compared to the older Vive models. However, despite having the options to use the Vive controllers available to the Cosmos and Cosmos Elite, it will need to be upgraded to have the compatible performance with both of them.
The Cosmos Elite however is another thing as it is the higher range model for the series which would be comparable to the Vive Index and Pro. The Elite comes bundled with the external tracking face plate so that will include the two base stations as well. Also, the Elite comes with the Vive Wands instead of the usual Vive controllers. Compared with the initial Cosmos headset, the tracking quality and performance is slightly better and provides a strong competition to the Vive Pro. Again, as part of the series, the Elite can resort to inside tracking with six front-end cameras by swapping the front-end face plate (which of course would be an additional upgrade cost). The Wands are the latest Vive VR controllers and they make use of a track pad and grab button for ease of use. Preceding controllers made use of thumb sticks and either grab triggers or pressure sensitive handles. Regardless, the Cosmos can use either of them so it would really just be a matter of choice.
Lastly, the Cosmos XR is kind of still in the works as it is for high-end and professional use which mixes both VR and AR technology which will surely be coming to light in the very near future. For now, consumer choices will likely be focused on whether one would want an entry level Cosmos headset which would be the Play with an expected price of around 500USD or the enthusiast oriented Elite with it's competitive features but would cost around 900USD. But then, with the upgrade and flexibility options of the Vive Cosmos series, making a choice however may prove to be a little convoluted at best.