We knew that Valve was going to be showing off some kind of VR headset at the Game Developers Conference (going on this week), but HTC dropped a bit of a bombshell when on Sunday it introduced the visor at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain. Turns out HTC and Valve are partners. HTC's Vive VR headset will be powered by Valve's SteamVR software.
(I should point out that there's some confusion about the name of the device. The press release calls it the Vive but the website and the teaser video embedded below both call it the Re Vive.)
I'm not at MWC or at the GDC in San Francisco so I've been on the edge of my seat waiting to hear some hands-on impressions on this new visor. The specs are certainly impressive. The displays are 1200x1080 with a refresh rate of 90 frames per second. The visor is positively covered with sensors and light receptors that, when coupled with something called Steam VR base stations, can track you as you roam about in a 15' x 15' area. HTC also mentions "ergonomic VR game controllers" that are also tracked in 3D space, but I'm not sure anyone is showing these yet.
The most exciting thing I've heard about the HTC Vive is its launch date. It's supposed to be out for Holiday 2015 (with a developer edition launching this spring). No pricing available yet.
Still I have a lot of questions. First of all let's talk about walking around a 15' x 15' area with a visor covering your face and, presumably, some kind of cable running between the visor on your head and a nearby PC. That sounds to me like a lawsuit waiting to happen. Even if HTC has managed to come up with a wireless solution that doesn't introduce lag, it seems like it'd be way too easy to wander out of your cleared area and trip over a chair (or a child or the dog). Hopefully we'll have plenty of VR experiences that can be enjoyed while standing in one place.
Then there's the challenge of driving two displays at 90 FPS; what kind of a PC are we going to need to get the best performance out of the Vive? Granted the first wave of VR consumers are bound to be hardcore PC gamers who already have high-end gaming rigs that can handle the demands of the Vive, but what about users like me who have decent gaming computers that can handle 60 FPS on one display but not much more? What kind of upgrade will we need?
Here's a teaser video for the Vive. It's mostly fluff but towards the end you can get a decent look at the hardware.
If nothing else, perhaps HTC's aggressive launch schedule will prompt Oculus to finally release a consumer version of the Rift. I feel like at this point VR visors have been coming 'real soon now' for far too long and only Samsung's Gear VR (which is powered by a smartphone) has managed to make it into stores. Let's get this VR thing going!