Manova: What happened to the standalone VR headset?
The start-up XRSpace wanted to conquer the metaverse and compete with Meta. What happened to these ambitious plans?
Almost exactly two years ago, former HTC boss Peter Chou unveiled the VR project Manova: a standalone VR headset along with the accompanying Metaverse platform. His startup worked on hardware and software in secret for three years.
The device’s 5G capability and the partnership with Deutsche Telekom attracted attention. The network operator was involved in the development and wanted to sell the device in Germany. The launch was planned for the fourth quarter of 2020.
For the time, the announced technology was okay. The VR headset had a Snapdragon 845 chip and a display resolution of 1,440 by 1,440 pixels per eye, which roughly corresponds to the specifications of the Meta Quest 1.
Two front cameras captured movements of the head and hands. XRSpace did without 6-DoF controllers, instead a simple 3-DoF controller and optical hand tracking was planned.
Manova: The Social VR World that never opened
The flagship of the project was the Metaverse platform Manova: a mixture of Second Life and Meta’s Horizon platform, which was to offer a city with private and public spaces, virtual concert halls, arcades, nightclubs, cinemas, classrooms, conference rooms, fitness centers and relaxation oases.
The platform was designed as a walled garden: Manova could only be entered with the company’s own VR headset, and there was no way to get VR apps from other app stores.
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A beta test started at the end of 2020. We also participated in the Manova test run. My colleague Ben tested the device and was able to take a few steps in Manova. However, there was not much to discover: Ben was able to create an avatar and look around the start environment, a virtual apartment. The hardware was also not particularly well done, neither technically nor in terms of comfort.
XRSpace: Hardware discontinued
Since then, a year and a half has passed without us hearing anything about the project. A lot has happened in that time: Meta Quest 2 has taken the industry by storm. Technically, it makes the Manova headset announced two years ago look old.
According to Protocol, the startup has given up on competing with Meta and refocused: It’s now developing Metaverse apps for third-party platforms, including Meta.
The startup’s website and Twitter channel show that hardware development has taken a back seat. Instead, there’s the event app PartyOn and the Metaverse platform GoXR, both of which are available in Meta’s App Lab, an app store for experimental VR software – an inglorious end to Project Manova.
We’ve reached out to Telekom for comment on the project’s status and will update this article as soon as we hear anything.