11 January 2016

HTC Vive - A Different Take on VR

Hard on the heels of the Oculus Rift release announcement HTC has also now announced the pre-order date for its Vive VR headset - 29 Feb. No price, but with Oculus on the hide side of what many expected, and rumours that Playstation VR will have a similar price, the chances are that the Vive won't be far off.

In terms of what Vive does there are a couple of things that separate it out from the Oculus:

- It has two spatial sensors, rather than Oculus' one, and they are designed to be placed in the corners of the room, rather than on the desktop as with Oculus. The upshot of this is that when wearing the Vive you can actually walk around the room and have your viewpoint move with you in the VR space. So if you were in a model of say the Tardis could you walk all the way around the console and up to the door and back, with no need to use a hand controller or other method (stare at feet, walk) to move around. All highly natural. Of course it means you need a room big enough (and uncluttered enough) to do this in, and what if the VR space you are in is miles bigger than your room space - can you slide or jump the mapping of real to VR space? It's still not a perfect solution to the "how do you move in VR" problem, but its an interesting avenue to explore.

- It has a front mounted camera, which can not only be used for things like hand tracking but can also provide a video feed of the real space in front of that can be faded in and out of the VR view. One use for this is apparently to crank up the real view as you get close to a physical real wall whilst wandering around in your VR space, but there must also be some interesting AR type uses, as well as more hygene things like quickly flipping back into reality to see what is going on around you (and maybe tell your friends off for laughing at you whilst you've got the VR headset on).

The Vive controllers look a lot chunkier than the Oculus ones, and also apparently the Vive has lower rez graphics, but possibly a wider field of view. 

One final point is that HTC has partnered with Steam, the on-line gaming provider, which will give them a very direct route to market, so who wins in the game wars (if anyone, looks like it's just be the same platforms+VR combinations (Playstation, Steam, Android/Google - interesting so where does that leave Oculus and Xbox?) will be interesting.

We haven't had the chance to try one out yet, so this is all second hand based on YouTube CES reports (e.g. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Otz5rAUOaqk), but we'll certainly be looking to get our hands on one later in the year.

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