Despite the efforts of many, virtual reality hasn’t caught on yet. Google may have released the cult favorite Google Cardboard earlier this year and Samsung may have the Gear VR, but most people haven’t had a chance to try out VR that isn’t powered by a smartphone. To try out VR in earnest, you most likely had to attend a gaming convention, CES or have a friend who has an early developer kit of, most likely, the Oculus. People expected both the Oculus and HTC Vive to launch in 2015, but hopes were dashed and the “Year of VR” turned into 2016.
While the Oculus Rift has dominated the discussion around virtual reality, smartphone maker HTC wants a piece of the VR pie too. Announcing their VR offering, the HTC Vive, at last year’s Mobile World Congress, the Vive has begun to look more and more promising. With an impressive showing at CES this year, HTC has made it clear that they’re very serious about VR. With many people guffawing at the Rift’s $599 price tag, HTC’s Vive is also starting to be considered by more VR enthusiasts. HTC hasn’t announced a price yet, but the Vive will ship in spring of this year to eager gamers. So what makes it special? Here are the most important ways that the HTC Vive distinguishes itself from the Oculus Rift:
Backed by Valve
Valve, in case you don’t know, is the company that has a near monopoly on PC gaming. They’re the makers of Half Life and Portal, own the content distribution platform Steam, and they’re working very closely with HTC on the Vive. Oculus may have Facebook, but Valve knows gamers. Because of this, you can bet your bottom dollar that solving problems like lag and motion sickness are of the utmost importance to Valve. Pair that commitment with Steam’s huge catalog of games and you have a promising looking device already.
Get up. Walk around.
VR is special because it helps you feel closer to the worlds you’re exploring. Now, what if you could also walk around in it? Perhaps not practical for most homes, the HTC uses an array of gyroscopes and cameras to let users walk around in a small area. It’s more immersive, for sure, and becomes a killer feature for places like theme parks and arcades.
Front facing camera
Unlike the Oculus Rift, the HTC Vive has a small camera on the front of it. That means that you can see the world in front of you without having to take the headset on and off again. It sounds minor, but taking your headset off to find the controller, your keyboard or your cup of water could prove to be cumbersome. The Vive will let you easily switch between your fantasy world and the real world with a tap, all while keeping the device on.
It’s too early to tell who will win the VR war (and there’s definitely room for two, at least), but the HTC Vive is certainly positioning itself well against the giant that is Oculus. The HTC Vive hopes to be thoughtful, weird and absolutely packed with tech to court VR nerds from all over. We’ll know more when pre-orders begin in a few months.