As the VR war starts to heat up, we’re already seeing a few key players enter the market. In the “mobile” VR corner we have Google Cardboard and the Samsung Gear VR. In the more “hardcore” VR arena the big players are the Sony Playstation VR, the Oculus Rift, and the HTC Vive. In this feature, we’ll highlight all the key things we know about the HTC Vive.
What is the HTC Vive?
The Vive is a VR headset developed by HTC and Valve and it was unveiled at Mobile World Congress in March 2015, going on to receive 22 awards during CES 2016 and even taking home the Best of CES title. The headset is designed around a standout feature called “room scale” that allows the headset to utilize technology to turn a room into a 3D space within the virtual reality environment. This allows a user to mimic the physical environment around them using motion tracked handheld controllers to interact and manipulate objects for a fully immersive environment.
On 23rd February 2015, Valve announced that it would demonstrate a SteamVR hardware system at the 2015 Game Developers Conference. The Vive was unveiled by HTC during its Mobile World Congress keynote on 1st March 2015 with Phil Chen, Chief Content Officer for HTC and Founder of the HTC Vive explaining that HTC met Valve which turned out to be “serendipity”. The two companies worked together in tandem with no clear dividing line between each others responsibilities and the result meant HTC and Valve had a collaborative VR effort.
What are the requirements to use it?
As with other VR platforms such as the Oculus Rift and Playstation VR, the HTC Vive is a tethered headset meaning it requires additional hardware to function. You’ll need a PC with at least the minimum following specification to use the HTC Vive:
- Graphics Card: GeForce GTX 970 or AMD Radeon R9 290 or better
- CPU: Intel Core i5 4590 or AMD FX 8350 or greater
- RAM: 4GB or more
- Video port: HDMI 1.4, DisplayPort 1.2, or better
- USB port: 1 USB 2.0 or faster port
- Windows 7 SP1 or newer
What are its standout features?
- 90Hz refresh rate
- 1080 x 1200 resolution per eye
- 70 sensors
- Lighthouse 15 feet by 15 feet tracking
- Front-facing Chaperone safety camera
- 110-degree field of view
- OLED display
- Vive Phone Services
The HTC Vive has the ability to deliver alerts and messages while you’re in VR from an iPhone or Android device, meaning you don’t have to end the VR experience to stay in touch with the outside world. However, the HTC Vive standout feature is Lighthouse and the ability to 3D map a user’s surrounding room and account for this in the VR environment. This 15 x 15 ft. tracking grid allows the HTC Vive to track a user around the room to increase the virtual reality experience.
The technology behind Lighthouse consists of two devices that can be placed around a room environment that communicates back to the headset to keep everything aligned. This communication between the Lighthouse sensors and the HTC Vive is done simply by light and is completely passive so only need power to function (think no long trailing cables around your living room).
The simple nature of the Lighthouse boxes means that their components are simple and cheap, they don’t need a high bandwidth connection to any of the VR systems’s components, and tracking resolution is not limited to the camera resolution like on other conventional solutions. To top off the experience, the Vive is combined with two motion sensing controllers that are laid out in a way that makes them easy to learn and relatively natural feeling when used in-game.
What are the best games and apps?
The HTC Vive has a growing number of great VR titles, with hundreds available already, and plenty more surfacing all the time. Some standout titles include The Labs, Job Simulator, and Fruit Ninja VR. Other titles to look out for include:
- Elite: Dangerous
- The Gallery: Call of the Starseed
- Fantastic Contraption
- Vanishing Realms
- Fallout 4 (coming 2017)
Epic Games has also announced support for Valve’s SteamVR technology that allows developers to create VR content with Unreal Engine 4 across Blueprint visual scripting, meaning projects can be built without being dependant on programmer support if needed.
What can I do beyond gaming?
Gaming is clearly a big deal for the HTC Vive and other VR headsets, but there’s plenty of other great things to do with the Vive. This includes watching 360-degree videos from a number of sources, including YouTube, which has a growing library of great VR content. Facebook also is seeing a rise in such video content.
How much is it?
The launch price of the HTC Vive has been set at $799, which puts the Vive as the most expensive VR headset currently on offer. However, HTC are marketing their headset to target the “high end” consumer market to offer a premium VR experience. It’s also important to note that if you combine the Oculus Rift with the upcoming Oculus Touch controllers, the Vive ends up priced very similarly.
Where do I buy it?
The HTC Vive is now available for immediate purchase from HTC with shipping times expected to be around 2-3 days after purchase. You can also find it in a growing number of online and brick-and-mortar retailers.
HTC Vive is a virtual reality headset developed by HTC and Valve Corporation, released on 5 April 2016. This headset is designed to utilize "room scale" technology to turn a room into 3D space via sensors, with the virtual world allowing the user to navigate naturally, with the ability to walk around and use motion tracked handheld controllers to vividly manipulate objects, interact with precision, communicate and experience immersive environments.
Unveiled during HTC's Mobile World Congress keynote in March 2015, the HTC Vive has since been awarded over 22 awards in CES 2016, including best of CES.
Prototypes of a Valve-produced virtual reality system were demonstrated during 2014. On 23 February 2015, Valve announced that it would demonstrate a "SteamVR hardware system" at the 2015 Game Developers Conference. HTC officially unveiled its device, Vive, during its Mobile World Congresskeynote on 1 March 2015. Preorders started on 29 February 2016 at 10:00 a.m. EST. Valve and HTC have since announced that the headset will be free for selected developers.
At Consumer Electronics Show 2016, HTC and Valve unveiled a near-final hardware revision of the device, known as HTC Vive Pre.
SteamVR will offer native support for Unity on its platform.
During his Immersed 2015 keynote, Phil Chen, Chief Content Officer for HTC and Founder of the HTC Vive explained that he "stumbled upon VR" and later HTC met Valve, which turned out to be "serendipity". Chen also explained that HTC and Valve don't have a clear dividing line between each of their responsibilities, and HTC is very much a partner in the research and development process.
In November 2016, HTC announced a tether-less VR upgrade kit made by TPCAST.
The Vive has a refresh rate of 90 Hz. The device uses two screens, one per eye, each having a display resolution of 1080x1200. The device uses more than 70 sensors including a MEMS gyroscope, accelerometer and laser position sensors, and is said to operate in a 15-by-15-foot (4.6 by 4.6 m) tracking space if used with both "Lighthouse" base stations that track the user's movement with sub-millimeter precision. The Lighthouse system was designed by Alan Yates and uses simple photosensors on any object that needs to be captured; to avoid occlusion problems this is combined with two lighthouse stations that sweep structured light lasers within a space.
The front-facing camera allows the software to identify any moving or static objects in a room; this functionality can be used as part of a "Chaperone" safety system, which will automatically display a feed from the camera to the user to safely guide users from obstacles.
By March 2016, the time at which the pre-orders for the HTC Vive opened, 107 games were known to be coming to the virtual reality format.
Valve places a strong emphasis on the independent developer as well as user developed content. It can be seen with Valve's Steam Workshop platform, a feature of Steam (Valve's gaming ecosystem featuring hundreds of millions of active signed up users). HTC Vive has an open policy with independent developers, stating they should "go and be healthy", contributing to the VR community as a whole. With the versatility of it being able to do seated as well as room scale virtual reality, the HTC Vive will have many applications other than gaming, including practical applications for healthcare, education, space applications used by NASA and many more. Valve released its OpenVR software development kit (SDK), an updated version of its Steamworks VR API with documentation and examples of how to build software that supports SteamVR hardware in April 2016. It provides support for the HTC Vive Developer Edition, including the SteamVR controller and Lighthouse.
On 30 April 2015, Epic Games announced support for Valve's SteamVR technology, allowing developers to create VR projects with Unreal Engine 4 for the HTC Vive. Epic said that SteamVR is completely integrated into Unreal Engine 4 across Blueprint visual scripting and native code, meaning projects can be built without being dependent on programmer support if needed. Epic's own Showdown tech demo can already be experienced on SteamVR using the Vive headset. jMonkeyEngine, a free cross-platform 3D engine, is also getting support for OpenVR and the Vive. Elite: Dangerous, a space exploration and trading game, added Vive support in April 2016.
In July 2016, VR news website Road to VR used game session figures from the Steam VR platform to estimate that approximately 100,000 Vive headsets had been shipped since launch. In the same month, SensoMotoric Instruments (SMI), a computer vision company, integrated its eye tracking technology in the HTC Vive to turn it into a dedicated eye tracking solution for research and professional applications. In November 2016, Vive announced that it would begin the first retail sales of its headsets at JB Hi-Fi and Harvey N
HTC’s app store for its Vive virtual reality headset expands globally Friday after launching solely in China earlier this year. It’s called Viveport, and HTC says that for the next 48 hours (from 12:00 a.m. PT September 30), it’s marking “several marquee titles” down to a buck a piece. That includes stuff like Mars Odyssey, a normally $8 NASA Lander and Rover infused romp across the red planet, as well as Firebird – La Peri, an otherwise $10 visual fantasy set to French composer Paul Dukas’ ballet.
HTC’s HTC 0.00% teasing a mystery, too, obviously hoping to drum up social media followers: Keep tabs on the company’s hijinks, and it promises to “relay a secret message that will reopen a path to unlimited Viveport content for worthy contenders.”
Is an app store what HTC’s Vive headset needs to keep virtual reality’s momentum going? It can’t hurt. App stores both centralize and foreground otherwise heterogeneous content. And properly outfitted with inexpensive, discounted or demo-ready wares, they encourage experimentation and broader engagement, deepening our sense of a platform’s worth. Imagine iOS and Android without Apple or Google’s embarrassingly cornucopian repositories.
But isn’t Valve’s Steam already the Vive’s de facto app store? Sure. And it’ll stay that way for enthusiasts, with or without Viveport. But it’s also the opposite of Apple’s App Store AAPL 0.42% or Google Play GOOG -0.60% —not the place nontraditional-gaming VR neophytes might think to go rummaging for experiences like The Music Room, or The Grand Canyon, or Everest VR.