The virtual reality (VR) race is here – 2016 is the year things start to heat up! For those who don’t know what VR is all about, it is an extremely immersive experience where your movements are tracked in a three-dimensional world, making it a perfect fit for everything from movies to games.
HTC Vive has the right look
We all imagined what the future would be like, especially when watching the many science fiction films and television shows, from the visor that Geordi La Forge wore on Star Trek to the Holodeck.
It was fun to dream of what the gadgets of the future would look like. Now that virtual reality headsets are here, the HTC Vive does not disappoint.
This futuristic headset looks just like what was promised from movies, like the Matrix, a bulky and complicated looking machine.
The HTC Vive is huge, and the bulbous, pockmarked face mask surrounds your head. It has a braid of wires extending from the top, while the straps allow for enough mobility to be comfortable without making a complete helmet.
On the up side, the HTC Vive Pre has less cords than the original model, which had some wired controllers that are connected by the two lighthouse boxes.
Now the system is much simpler, with only one long cable coming from the headset that plugs into a small box, which in turn is connected to a powerful PC.
Feel of the HTC Vive Pre
This virtual reality headset has some problems that are associated with headsets. Over time, the close-fitting foam mask can get soaked with sweat if you happen to overexert yourself while using the VR system.
On top of the gross sweat that accumulates, the lenses in the headset have the tendency to fog up or get smeared with sweat.
However, the HTC Vive is still very comfortable. The Pre has a motion tracking system that doesn’t cause disorientation. There is no disconnect between what you are seeing in virtual reality and what your body is actually doing in the real world.
It’s a great new set-up, the HTC Vive is great to use for either sitting or standing, even a combination of the two. Just be careful not to get tangled in or trip on the cord when you are walking around.
Functionality of the Pre VR set
The HTC Vive has two tiny boxes to mount around the room, in the corners, on stands or fixed to the wall. However, if you decide to set the boxes up, they need to be arranged in a square so that they can project a 15 by 15 feet space in the room.
The Pre uses lasers and sensors in the controllers and headset to calibrate the location.
If you happen to have enough space in the room, the HTC Vive will project a “deck” part of a Holodeck. It allows you to actually walk around the room, without taking small little steps or pressing a lot of buttons. In fact, the Pre is perfect at blocking out reality and works as a great blindfold too.
Besides the headset, the HTC Vive uses wireless controllers that look like remote controls for the television that are covered with sensors and large rings. They might not look or feel balanced, but they track almost perfectly.
They even last long enough between charges to watch a movie or play a few hours of a game. The controllers are charged by a Micro USB port and at six hours are only at half-power.
The controllers are very easy to use, as most interactions involve clicking on a4 button or squeezing bumpers on the side of the controller.
The home button is on the bottom of the trackpad and it can be used to access the Stream interface and the blue laser pointer, which is used to make selections. Overall, the entire system, from headphones to controller are simple to use.
Performance of the HTC Vive Pre
The Vive is easy to set up as well, with the chaperone system that uses a grid system to map out the space. The front facing camera shows a detailed outline of the real world compared to the actual virtual reality space.
However, the HTC Vive Pre will not take into account the friend who has wandered into the space or the chair that you were sitting on for half the game.
The performance of the Pre is unlike anything else, from the Wii or Kinect systems, or even the other virtual reality systems on the market.
HTC Vive still uses traditional gamepads, but doesn’t use them the same way as other machines, it treats them like motion controllers. Everything in the Pre system uses motion in some way or another, from painting, fencing, drawing, shooting or flying an airplane through the air.
The controllers on the HTC Vive are wireless and battery operated, and use a dual stage trigger button that is found under each forefinger, a textured circular touchpad and a home button.
Users will enjoy the Haptic feedback, which helps them to know what the correct actions are and to learn how to use the controller in no time.
The best part of this VR system, is that it changes the way you use electronics. By moving your hands to sculpt or paint, or play a ninja simulator, it is more exhausting than just using a keyboard and mouse.
The goal is to make playing a video game much like the activity of playing sports, it’s fun and exciting, but eventually you are going to get tired and want to take a break.
Design and Specs
There is not much difference between the consumer Vive and the Pre in terms of design and specs. The Pre is a bit smaller than the newest consumer release, but it is still comfortable to wear. I
t even has swappable foam inserts, a nose “gasket” and adjustable straps to make sure the headset fits properly. In fact, you can even wear your glasses while wearing the headset.
The Vive even has the ability to connect to either Android or iPhones to deliver alerts or messages while in the world of virtual reality. This is a unique service, called Vive Phone Services, and like the camera function, it allows people to keep in touch with the real world while playing VR games or watching movies.
The HTC Vive has a display that features two 1080 x 1200 screens, one for each eye, with a pixel density that helps to eliminate the screen door effect.
The Vive has a total resolution of 2160 x 1200 pixels, and an aspect ration of 9:5, which results in a taller image that is natural and realistic. It allows the VR user to look up without having to move their head up and down. The screen is set at 90Hz, which is perfect for virtual reality.
The Pre has a front-facing camera, which means that the virtual world is overlaid onto the real world.
Thereby opening up a world of new possibilities for augmented virtual reality experiences, but also assists users to move about the real-world environment easier and without removing the headset.
The headset on the HTC Vive currently has a large bundle of wires or data cables protruding from it. However, the final version will have only a single HDMI cable. There is also a 3.5 mm jack on the side of the headset to plug in your own headphones.
The virtual reality system has a gyrosensor, a laser position sensor and accelerometer, that all work in sync to track the position of your head. The information is transferred to the PC, which does all the graphic work.
This means that the headset is lightweight and comfortable, and the PC does all the work and keeps the system up to date.
Price and Rating
The final cost of the Vive is set at $799. This is more expensive than other virtual reality systems on the market. However, you do get more bang for your buck, than other devices.
The HTC Vive Pre comes complete with two controllers, earbuds and the Lighthouse base stations, even a copy of the game’s Fantastic Contraption and Job Simulator: The 2050 Archives.
The HTC Vive needs a solid PC that is compatible with the system and able to run the virtual reality experiences. The Vive requires the PC have a NVIDIA GeForce GTX 970 / AMD Radeon R9 290 equivalent or greater, 4GB+ of RAM, Intel i5-4590 / AMD FX 8350 equivalent or greater, 1x USB 2.0 or greater port, HDMI 1.4 or DisplayPort 1.2 or newer and finally Windows 7 SP1 or newer.
Many people are eager to get their hands on the Vive, as the library of games has been growing ever since conception. The Pre is already at an advantage when compared to other virtual reality headset companies, as it has partnered with Valve.
Valve uses an open-source application programming interface (API), which allows developers to make their products (including games) compatible with SteamVR. Besides the impressive list of programs, HTC also has a great roster of content partners, from HBO to Google.