During Mobile World Congress, HTC announced a collaboration with Valve to create an entirely new VR experience: HTC Vive.
While the circumstances surrounding the collaboration are unknown, the Vive VR headset is the SteamVR headset we learned about last week. HTC is most likely providing parts and manufacturing the device, while Valve provided SteamOS technology and a delivery platform. Whatever the case may be, it is clear that this is a massive undertaking.
While Oculus Rift and Project Morpheus track a user’s head movements and require an input device for movement, Vive does not. It also does not appear to be a competitor to Samsung’s Gear VR, but rather positions itself as a completely new piece of VR technology.
The HTC Vive appears to be able to track the entire room, not just a user’s head movements, using technology similar to that of the Oculus Crystal Cove prototype that Valve assisted Oculus VR in developing. This means it can detect where someone is in a room and mirror their movements within that space into the game.
According to HTC’s Jeff Gattis, the HTC Vive will have a fast 90Hz refresh rate and 360-degree views. We assume this means the screen wraps around, enveloping your field of vision and creating a sense of total visual immersion.
According to an HTC press release, the Vive will provide a “full room-scale” virtual reality experience, allowing you to “get up, walk around and explore your virtual space, inspect objects from every angle, and truly interact with your surroundings.”
You’ll reportedly be able to interact with objects using a pair of HTC controllers designed for manipulating objects, firing weapons, and generally doing whatever you need them to do. It sounds similar to Sony’s Project Morpheus VR headset, which pairs with PlayStation Move to allow users to interact with their surroundings.
Gattis also claimed that the Vive is “really light, you can wear it for a long time without feeling weighed down,” which the Oculus Rift and Project Morpheus cannot claim. This implies that the Vive’s processing and power supply are not built into the device. Obviously, this raises some concerns about how it’s powered and whether it’s wireless. The screenshot above suggests it’s currently wired, but for a device that promotes completely free movement and interaction, it’s a little strange that it requires you to be tethered down.
Aside from its technical prowess, the most impressive aspect of the HTC Vive is its production timeline. HTC and Valve are promising developers units for release this spring. As if that wasn’t enough, a consumer version of the Vive is expected to hit stores by the end of 2015, posing a significant threat to the still-in-production Oculus Rift – especially if Valve promotes the Vive alongside Steam Machines and its own distribution platform Steam.
More information about the Vive will be released later this week as developers and videogame press get their hands on the device at GDC 2015, so stay tuned for more updates.