The HTC Vive Adds A Camera So You Can Have Your Drink And VR Too

HTC announced late last year that their collaboration on virtual reality with Valve, the HTC Vive, would be delayed until April because of a major technical breakthrough. The companies have been showing off that breakthrough at this year's Consumer Electronics Show, and it turns out it's augmented reality.

Image courtesy of Steven Tweedle/Business Insider

The revision of the HTC Vive, the Vive Pre, adds a front-facing camera that feeds a rough overlay of their real world environment through the headset to the user. It's not an original solution to a problem VR has had for a while — how can you have a drink without breaking the immersion — but reports from those on the ground are that it's effective nonetheless.

When used in conjunction with the Vive's Lightroom wireless trackers, which scan the surroundings with pulsing lasers to get a gauge of your virtual "space", the Vive Pre injects virtual grid lines that appear whenever you're about to approach a wall whilst under the spell of VR. Business Insider's Steven Tweedle, however, wrote that you can toggle between the virtual scene and the view from the front-facing camera by double tapping one of the buttons on the Vive's touch controllers.

On top of the camera, the Vive Pre — which won't be the name for the consumer release of the technology when it ships in April — has gotten an overhaul across the board. Textured buttons, grip pads, softer edges and the ergonomics on the touch controllers have been improved, while the straps have been tweaked on the headset to make it more comfortable and adjustable.

The Vive Pre now has interchangeable nose gaskets and foam inserts for better long-term use, and the entire headset is more compact than its inaugural release. The mobile manufacturer added in an announcement that the Vive is sporting "brighter displays and image refinements" for a "deeper sense of presence", which seems to translate to better colour reproduction and contrasts. That can't be judged without a side-by-side comparison, mind you.

The Lightroom base stations are quieter and more compact now too, with supposedly better tracking. HTC and Valve will be sending 7,000 units to developers, with those demoing at CES and those who are already programming for the Vive likely to be the recipients.

There's no word on when pre-orders will open, how much the Vive will cost, whether it's available without the Lightroom stations (for those who want to just sit down for their VR experience) or touch controllers, or precisely how many games will support the Vive on launch.


Comments

    So i have a DK2 already and THAT feature alone is so nice.
    but if anyones ever used any kind of helmet/ night vision monocular 1x you will know that having your perspective screwed with like that makes the largest difference with depth perception. not an easy thing to overcome

    The more I read, the more it seems Vive is offering a lot more than what Oculus does and being an early adopter it's screwing me badly.

    @xylo would you recommend Vive more than Oculus?

      Well to be honest ive only used the DK2, i mean it was great but an early model. i think i like the vive more.
      i have a feeling it would be better.
      and something else that pushes me towards the vive more is the consumer version (oculus) has those crumby speakers added, which seem to be more of a " look at the extra things we have on our oculus!" to distract from the lact luster features.
      hand controllers are pretty sweet though; but again for me, i think just the vive is better because it really just focuses on one thing, the virtual immersion part for the eyes.

      if it were me picking now id wait for reviews on both, if the HTC has better specs, then vive it is!
      only problem is that right now all the content is oculus based stuff for oculus software, so theres more than likely going to be a split between the two, like AMD and Nvidia, hopefully theres a software bridging program or something otherwise its going to be a very depressing, and pitiful launch for the vive.

    This may seem like a silly question, but is the Vive compatible with the games that have been developed with Oculus support?
    Or is there going to end up being some sort of format war between the different headsets?

      No, they're not, unfortunately. It's Valve vs Oculus at the moment.
      Valve are trying to create a standard with the Vive which other headsets can comply with - they're actually chasing that uniform compatibility thing aggressively. Right now, though, given that there are only two major players, it's an "us" or "them" mentality.

        So how are we to know which version of the game is better?

        I'm personally hope they work together on this. DigitalFoundry will be in disarray.

        Last edited 06/01/16 6:49 pm

          Meh, the same way these sorts of things are always decided - seeing which side shouts the loudest on the internet.

    I appreciate how all three of them are playing to their strengths. But VIVE stands apart with their room scale tracking.

    However, if Valve's not making launch games that take advantage of this, it means very little. But they can most definitely turn that around. (I don't really trust Valve's innovation decisions in terms of practicality/ I don't think they get it like the other two does; Exhibit A: Steam Controller)

    Oculus CV1 looks more comfortable, but they have yet to release a consumer electronics product let alone a first party game. They also grabbed the "best" people from every other company. Who knows, FaceBook might eat some of the cost of the device.

    Sony will make things the simplest and the most comfortable, and have an armada of first party development studios, and a solid 30 million potential install base. But Sony isn't competing, since it's on it's own platform. They just want VR on PC to succeed as well, for them to snag those multiplats.

    We don't have a problem. We are spoiled for choice.

      Why isn't the steam controller practical? I have one and have found it vastly superior to a standard gamepad and not vastly different in terms of accuracy and speed compared to playing with a keyboard/mouse. There's just a learning curve period to get through as its a new design.

        If you had both an XBO controller and a Steam controller, which would you use to play the best games that came out this year?

        I choose the XBO controller.

          I have both and already made the choice, definitely Steam controller. Has all the features of the Xbox controller, and more. Personal preference definitely is at play here, just trying to understand the comment about it not being practical?

          It's selling like crazy and everyone that takes the time to get used to it and doesn't just give up after a couple of hours thinks it is great. People are always going to have different preferences to what they choose to play, but it doesn't make the other choices impractical.

            You are right. I use the KB and Mouse all the time but only for work and studies. So when I game, I use a controller, even on PC.

            But I wasn't thinking about Strategy and Sim games. It's personal preference. Although, you have to admit, it makes a terrible first impression.

              Oh definitely, but what it really reminds me of, is when I first used the Original Xbox controller, when I had only used N64/PS1 or KB and Mouse. I couldn't aim and move at the same time and had a lot of trouble.

              I think a lot of people go into it looking at it as Valve's version of the same controller scheme layout that Xbox and Playstation have been using and is the current standard, so they are expecting it to be the same and they come away with that bad impression. In reality, its a new type of controller with different capabilities while keeping some of features of those other controllers. That was the impression I came from when I first used it and I never had that bad first impression or getting frustrated but the same excitement that I had when I first picked up the Xbox controller and thought this is weird and its difficult but I can tell this is going to be amazing when I get used to it.

              I use it as a replacement for KB + Mouse as well as the games I used to play with a Gamepad. So Strategy, Sim, FPS, Platform games, the works.

          To clarify, I'm not saying that the Xbox controller isn't good. I have used it as my preferred gaming controller for years prior to the Steam Controller and I personally have found that works better for my needs, so not knocking your choice, just pointing out that the Steam Controller itself isn't impractical.

    I'm definitely on board with the Vive. I've used the Oculus DK1, DK2, the Samsung Galaxy Gear and the Vive and the Vive beats the others hands down. It's the only one that feels truly immersive.

    Have to say though, I was expecting this "big reveal" to be a bit more... awe inspiring. They hyped it up a hell of a lot, and it turns out it's just a front-facing camera? Yay... I guess?

    I was hoping that they'd announce a wireless solution, since at present the Vive requires a tether and that kind of limits the whole "room-tracking" thing somewhat. Certainly could be an issue with people tripping over it accidentally.

      Agreed. I was a little underwhelmed by this announcement, too.
      But I have to admit it's an extremely practical addition and a damn good idea. "Breakthrough technology", however, it most certainly is not.

    I can't imagine too many people clearing out an entire room for the freemovement camera setup that vive has. The front facing camera isn't really revolutionary, its pretty common sense and something that has been asked for since day 1 for VR.

    THIS is exactly why I've already chosen the Vive over the Rift. I don't care about the base stations, as I'll be sitting in my swivel chair and playing flight/space/racing sims predominantly with this gizmo, and using my racing wheel and stuff. And I suspect I'll need a camera to orient myself to the wheel on my desk and stuff.

    Actually the breakthrough technology they were referring to is the 'mura' tech they have for the screens. What it does is colour correct at a per pixel level, which means you can use screens that have less consistant colour and run them brighter. From a manufacturing point it means you can use screens you would usually bin which is a massive boon for HTC and for consumers is great because it should reduce cost significantly. PR wise though the pass through camera is a better sell.

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