I Tried HTC's Newest Vive VR Headset, Here's What It Looks Like

I Tried HTC's Newest Vive VR Headset. Here's What It Looks Like

The HTC Vive is in turnaround. After disappointing some people last year by putting the launch date well into 2016, the company's back with a second generation developer model so good, it will win back our brains.

Developed in partnership with Valve, the HTC Vive wowed us and everyone else who tried it last year. A real-deal competitor for Oculus Rift! Alright!

Last week the HTC teased a refreshed version of the dev kit, and I'm one of the first members of the media to try it. It's the last ditch to work out the kinks in Vive before its public release in the first quarter of this year. The official name of the device is the Vive Pre. The billboard new features are a newly redesigned front-facing camera, a redesigned headset, better base stations for improved tracking, and greatly improved ergonomics on the controllers.

I was treated by Nvidia to a demo of the Everest VR experience that's been trotted around recently. The demo takes you on a virtual reality trip up the towering mountain. It's part NatGeo documentary — complete with grave voiceover — and part interactive experience.

I Tried HTC's Newest Vive VR Headset. Here's What It Looks Like

The most compelling part of the experience is when you're asked to follow Sherpa guides on a treacherously-narrow makeshift bridge across a cavernous drop.

Though the graphics are great, what really sells the experience are the details. When you look down at the newly redesigned controllers (more on hardware below) you see little mittens. Before crossing the bridge, you reach out and grab a pair of ascender tools which are attached to wires on either side of the bridge. Then, you walk. And you walk very slowly are carefully for fear of falling to your doom. Is it possible to die in this experience if you step off the wrong way? I have no idea — I did not intend to find out! As you make your way across, the bridge, the controllers vibrate, giving you the sensation that at any moment a gust of wind will come and carry you away.

I Tried HTC's Newest Vive VR Headset. Here's What It Looks Like

Overall the experience was seamless. After a small hiccup when I first put on the headset, the system ran as planned. The positional tracking of both my body and the controllers felt realistic. I was never disoriented throughout the demo, and thanks to a nic egrid that appears when you're close to the wall, I never felt like I as about to knock myself unconscious.

It should be noted that I didn't experience any of the sick-feelings I've had before on this kind of high-flying virtual reality adventure. Though the experience's graphics still retain that old "screen door" effect, the refresh rate was so fast that I could throw my head around without dropping a frame. (You better believe the Vive was connected to a badass Nvidia-powered system that made this kind of graphics processing possible.)

I Tried HTC's Newest Vive VR Headset. Here's What It Looks Like

As for the hardware, you can see that the that the headset has evolved and looks a lot more like a finished consumer product than it did the first time. I found it quite comfortable to wear, though the weight would certainly get cumbersome after a while. And of course, the headset has wires coming out of it, so it's not like you're being released to another dimension without a tether.

One year ago:

I Tried HTC's Newest Vive VR Headset. Here's What It Looks Like

Today:

I Tried HTC's Newest Vive VR Headset. Here's What It Looks Like

The controllers also look fresh and new — again, like polished consumer products. The ergonomics have been improved, but the basic principle is the same: A big wand with a circular touchpad and a trigger for each hand.

One year ago:

I Tried HTC's Newest Vive VR Headset. Here's What It Looks Like

Now:

I Tried HTC's Newest Vive VR Headset. Here's What It Looks Like

While this isn't exactly as powerful and refined as the final version of the Oculus Rift, the rapid evolution of HTC and Valve's technology gives us every indication that we have a lot to look forward to when the Vive launches to the public in a few months.

This post originally appeared on Gizmodo Australia


Comments

    The Vive is amazing. I don't know jow good the Oculus is these days, or how good the Touch controllers will eventually be - but they've got their work cut out for them.
    I put on the Vive headset, reached out to take the controllers from my friend, and they were exactly where I anticipated they'd be... I burst out laughing. It felt like the first genuinely "new" thing I'd experienced in gaming since swinging at my first ball in Wii Sports Tennis.

      All three major companies have that technology. I think HTC's one can just track in a much wider area.

      I think this whole Oculus launch was planned to make sure those enthusiast money gets tied down in case people switch to VIVE.

      Just think about it, those guys are going to buy the first to release and not have any money left and have no drive left to buy VIVE.

      While Oculus at least gets the crazy enthusiasts who would pay anything, VIVE will be left to fend for their own.

      I think for VIVE to not announce their price and release date before March 28, would be a huge mistake.

      When people compare the PS3 and Xbox360, they forget, not only did the 360 come in at a better price slot, but also went on sale earlier.

      Last edited 08/01/16 9:32 am

    The big question is will there be a big enough install base for developers to be able to make AAA style titles and get their money back?
    If not, who is going to make the software?

      It's probably going to be comig from nvidia or steam to push the feature out. Nvidia already have a vr section, similar to game works and I believe it will be something along those for developers to use nvidia vr tech

    Why does looking at that thing remind me of the ATS/8 Arachnid helmet from Destiny?

    If they announce the price to be the same as Oculus but includes touch and does not have rip off shipping then they get my monies.

    I was 100% committed to buying the Oculus today (woke up super early and actually planned to get 2) as I really wanted to support the product that kicked it all off.

    However once I seen the Australian price of the Rift... I immediately started reading review articles on the HTC Vive.

    ~$1100 AUD for the Rift is beyond a joke, and I have no idea how they ever intend to make it mainstream at those prices.
    At $500 AUD, they would have dominated the market before Vive even launched... Now, I will be thoroughly comparing features and offerings, and will be waiting for the right Price Entry point.

    Let's just hope that the Vive make the right move, better to take a loss on the Launch and dominate the emerging market, than to try and make a few Dollars of a few sales.

      Yeah i added one to my cart and when i got to the final price I WTFNOPE'd the hell out of there.

      $1100 AUD for this freakin thing? Is this a joke?

    Yep same. I was so amped, but then at those prices I see I am going to have to wait quite awhile :( I am hoping once the Vive comes out it will spark a price war.

    I think Oculus is making a big mistake releasing their headset without the controllers as a option, esp at $599USD which is allot to pay for a bare bones VR headset (no haptic sticks).

    This pricepoint is probably set by facebook in an attempt to make a large profit on the headset, then sell the controllers for $199 later on for more profit. They want to learn the hard way I guess!

    Nice article. Thank you. Just have a few questions.

    It still looks like the least (ergonomically) comfortable though, is that true?

    Do the touch-pads do good enough of a job as analogue sticks?

    Did you at any point see an AR demo using the new camera?

    Did you think anything that you saw will be a game?

    Last edited 07/01/16 8:36 pm

    What i am also doing is deliberately waiting until the last day to pre-order the Rift so that i get all my bases covered. Oculus confirmed orders would only be charged when they ship, so - as of writing this - currently the ship date on a pre-order right now is June.

    By pre-ordering the day before pre-orders close and the first in line gets theirs charged and shipped, i still get the pre-order bonuses with mine, but between now and lets say a few months after June - August or September for mine to ship - i get right up to then to save up enough cash to buy it without a massive once off hit to my wallet. At the same time, because pre-orders can be cancelled at any time confirmed, i get to see reviews and likely the competitors VR reviews well before mine even charges my card let alone ships.

    Win-win for me.

    As a pc gamer, i want to know the specs. To me personally the price of it dont bother. I would pay for quality just like how we pay for graphics and quality games on pc. The highlight of this article was "screen door effect". I owned dk1 and 2. Screendoor effect killed the experience each time. I wont buy any product with screen door, narrow fov and below 100hz.

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