It has been veiled in a shroud of secrecy up until this point, but HTC and Valve have finally taken off the covers off the consumer edition of their Vive virtual reality headset.
It bills itself as the ‘first complete VR solution’, and offers a genuine full-room experience thanks to the assorted peripherals that it ships with. As well as wireless controllers that offer touch feedback and dual-stage triggers, the Vive system incorporates Valve’s Lighthouse tracking technology, which uses infrared sensors to determine where the user is based on where the headset and controllers are in the room.
The headset itself features a couple of recent upgrades, notably a redesigned head strap to improve balance during use. It also features a camera and phone; the former is used to ‘blend physical elements into the virtual world’ while the latter allows users to receive calls, respond to texts and see calendar invites.
Compared to its rivals, it currently offers an experience that the others cannot match (yet), but this comes at a price. US customers will have to part with $799 (compared to the $599 Oculus Rift, for example). Outside of North America, the Vive will cost even more: In the UK it will sell for £689 and in the Eurozone it will cost €899.
The Vive bills itself as the ‘first complete VR solution’
Despite offering a far more comprehensive VR experience, the Vive will still need to be tethered to a high-end gaming PC in order to work, which means you’ll still be trailing a wire behind you as you use it. Despite HTC’s protests that it has been designed to be used for non-gaming purposes, there has not been much information on what its plans are in this regard.
It will also remain to be seen whether the cheaper price of the Oculus Rift
(and possibly the Playstation VR when its price is revealed next month) will prove to be a deciding factor for consumers. For the moment, however, a decent number of compatible titles and the immediate availability of a dedicated controller makes the Vive an obvious front runner.
The HTC Vive can be pre-ordered from 29th February 2016 via the company’s site.
Update: Sony has announced that its PlayStation VR will be priced at £349.99, making it cheaper than its rivals. It will be made commercially available in October 2016.