The HTC Vive was unveiled at this year's MWC event. The HTC Vive is the Taiwanese company's first virtual reality headset. The Vive has the VR industry talking more than Kim Kardashian on twitter. With gaming giant Valve and their Steam content delivery system behind them, this could be a match made in VR heaven.
So what is the HTC Vive all about anyway?
HTC Vive: How much and when?
HTC has stated the Vive will be available by the end of 2015. Specifically in November they're "bringing everything that makes the PC great—the best games, the biggest communities, and the most exciting technologies—to new destinations"
Valve is working on their Steam Machines to compete with consoles. The first batch of Steam machines are a little underwhelming with the offering from the likes of Alienware with their Alpha machine offering a mobile based (non up-gradable) GPU.
Neither Valve nor HTC has confirmed how much the Vive will cost. However HTC Connected Products Marketing Executive Director Jeff Gattis stated that consumers should be prepared for “a slightly higher price point” when the Vive is released to consumers later this year.
What does “slightly higher price point” mean? The only pricing we've heard discussed amongst the big VR players is the Oculus Rift. The DK1 cost $300 and DK2 $350.
Oculus founder Palmer Luckey said last September that the company is aiming to “stay in that $200-$400 price range”.
So let’s assume $400 for Oculus Rift CV1.
HTC Vive I would hazard a guess to be at least $599 which for a groundbreaking device with the potential to change forever the way we play games is a price I am certainly willing to pay. HTC knows this, and is likely to price accordingly.
HTC Vive: Design & Hardware
The HTC Vive is "currently" the highest resolution display of any consumer VR device. The HTC Vive features two 1080 x 1200 screens, one for each eye.
Oculus recently announced their Crescent Bay uses two screens
This gives the Vive a total resolution of 2160 x 1200 pixels and a refresh rate of 90Hz, which is on par with Oculus Rift's Crescent Bay edition but lower than Sony's Project Morpheus' 120Hz. Remember of course that the PS4 outputs a 60 fps signal and is then upconverted to 120 hz for the headset. The Vive and Oculus are capable of native 90 fps. How noticeable these differences end up being can only truly be tested with similar software tested side by side (I look forward to that day)
The HTC Vive will be tethered to a PC, most likely with a power/HDMI combo cable. There's also a 3.5mm jack on the side of the headset so you can plug in your favorite headphones.
HTC Vive: Motion Tracking
The motion tracking of the HTC Vive is an aspect setting it apart from other VR devices. Motion tracking is provided by two "lighthouses" which are essentially infrared laser devices similar to a bar code scanner. Because the Lighthouse system consists of two Lighthouse units, a second unit (across the room) is believed to be sweeping while the other unit is resting, and combined, they reach a total of 100 sweeps per second. Some surfaces in the room are swept once, others are swept twice, depending on which Lighthouse can see them.
The lighthouses are placed in the corners of a room, and follow the headset's 37 sensors. The maximum room size is 15 feet by 15 feet. What if your room is larger or smaller or you just want to sit? In response to this question, Valve’s Chet Faliszek clarified this issue at a presentation at EGX Rezzed
We say 15 feet, which is what a lot of people have heard. That isn’t required; that’s just one version of it. You can be seated, you can be standing, you can have a small room or big room. We like having those options.
This means that unlike the Oculus device that Palmer Luckey has stated is intended to be a seated experience. The Vive allows you to walk around. What happens if you walk too close to a real world wall? The Vive presents a virtual Matrix like wall inside the headset to warn you.
HTC Vive: Controllers
Rather unique to the HTC Vive (so far) is the ability to see the 3D representation of the controllers that exist in the real world within the virtual world in the Vive headset. This allows the user to easily pick up the controller(s) without "lifting the headset to find it" we're all so familiar with in the DK2.
The controllers feature a number of inputs. On the back, you have a trigger button. On each side, it has big paddles that you can squeeze with your hands and each one has a touch-pad. Imagine the Valve Steam controller split into two.
HTC Vive: Games and Content
Vive has been shown with a handful of demos. There is an underwater demo called "TheBlu: Encounter" by Wemo Lab. You start off standing on the deck of a shipwreck. Schools of fish swim around you and you can swipe at them by waving the controller. You can walk around the deck, and eventually a giant blue whale swims next to you. The other is a demo based on Valve's Portal.
Hands on with the HTC Vive
HTC has a distinct advantage over other VR headsets in its partnership with Valve. Valve already has a decent collection of games provided via their SteamVR platform. These games already have the necessary code to work with the Oculus Rift, and Valve is releasing an open source API so that developers can make their products (not just games) compatible with SteamVR.
Valve released the first of the very popular Half-Life series of games in 1998 and Half-Life 2 in 2004. Will Valve release Half-life 3 as a launch title for the Vive?
HTC also announced content partners for Vive, including HBO, Lionsgate, Google and Taiwan's National Palace Museum. What this content will be is yet to be announced.
I'm hoping for Game of Thrones in my virtual movie theater...
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