HTC and Valve apparently believe that whatever Samsung and Oculus can do, they can do better. (Or at least just as good.)
In what was a powerful statement about the viability of the burgeoning VR market, and the mobile VR market specifically, HTC announced that it has partnered with Valve to create the HTC RE Vive, a VR headset that combines HTC's mobile engineering with Valve's VR prowess.
The most obvious competitor here is Samsung and Oculus, but unlike Gear VR, HTC RE Vive (or is it just "Vive;" HTC's messaging is unclear) does not require a specific smartphone—nor any smartphone, apparently.
Each eye gets a 1200 x 1080 resolution display with 90 fps refresh rates. HTC stated that Vive "displays photorealistic imagery that fills your field of vision in all directions" and eliminates jitter.
For head tracking, the Vive VR headset features a gyro, accelerometer and a laser position sensor for two-axis movement that HTC claims can hit 1/10th of a degree.
You can bring your own headphones to the Vive VR, so your user experience will be colored in part by the quality of the cans that you employ. (Pro tip: Don't skimp.)
There are accessories you'll want to use with the Vive, and they don't sound cheap. There are two SteamVR base stations that allow for the 360-degree room feel along with a pair of wireless VR controllers (which HTC has not unveiled). It sounds as if Vive will let you roam around within the virtual environment; if so, that's an impressive feat of engineering.
The Oculus Rift Crescent Bay demo allows for the same, but you're trapped on a 6 x 6 foot-or-so rubber mat. (Pro tip: If you're in the "top of the building" portion of that demo, and you've unwittingly crept too close to the edge of the thick rubber mat, and you force yourself to step off that ledge but then your foot doesn't connect with the mat, you will be certain for a split second that you're plunging to your death.)
Hardware is one thing in VR, but content is another; it's largely what has delayed the release of the Oculus Rift. To remedy that situation before it becomes a problem, HTC and Valve have already partnered with companies to produce "rich entertainment" content. Partners include Vertigo Games, Bossa, Barry—Fireproof, Dovetail Games, Wemo Labs, Google, Steel Wool Games, and Owlchemy.
You didn't miss that mention of Google, did you? Google is working on content for Vive. This would be wildly speculative at this point, but wouldn't it be interesting if this had something to do with YouTube? As opposed to, say, Google Cardboard?
The HTC Vive Developer Edition is coming yet this spring; HTC promised that the consumer edition will launch by the end of the year.
And no, HTC did not announce any pricing information. Look for more from our crew out at GDC in San Francisco this week.