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The HTC Vive Review

The HTC Vive has all of the ingredients to successfully challenge the Oculus Rift, including its 6DoF hand controllers, the ability to walk around in virtual spaces and 100+ games on the way.

Health, Safety & Maintenance

Health & Safety Concerns

When brand new technologies are introduced, they usually present fresh health and safety concerns. Sometimes those worries seem unfounded, but virtual reality introduces clear issues that need to be addressed.

HTC's Vive isn't all that different from the Rift in this regard, so it shouldn’t be surprising that this headset comes with many of the same warnings. The included safety and regulations guide warns that if you have a history of photosensitive seizures, anxiety disorders, post-traumatic stress or heart conditions, you should consult a doctor before using the Vive. Pregnant woman and the elderly should also exercise caution.

The guide also warns of repetitive use injuries. HTC suggests that you maintain good posture while wearing the headset, and your grip on the controllers should be light (use the straps). You should also avoid prolonged use of the Vive because it can affect your hand-eye coordination and balance, in addition to the obvious physical exertion that may result in muscle and joint pain.

The experiences you have while using the Vive will feel very real. You brain will react to VR the same way it handles the world outside of VR. HTC cautions that if you have a history of reacting to scary, violent, emotional and high-adrenaline content, you should avoid those experiences in VR.

Not For Children

HTC doesn’t specify an age limit for the Vive, but does warn that the product was not designed for children. Oculus was very specific about a recommended age, due in part to the available IPD adjustments. HTC doesn’t cite the same issue, though its Vive does offer a wider minimum adjustment. The concerns outlined in the booklet revolve more around children being hurt, hurting others or damaging the hardware. It does say that if older children are allowed to use the Vive, they should be monitored during and after for adverse effects.

Chaperone

Bumping into things is an obvious concern when you put on an HMD and walk around. As mentioned, the Chaperone was designed to help you avoid accidents involving your furniture or a wall. It uses a combination of the barriers you set up in the calibration process and the camera system on the front of the headset.

When you move too close to the barriers defined in your play area, a virtual wall in the form of a colored grid appears to let you know what's happening. This is incredibly helpful for establishing trust in the technology, and it really puts you at ease about walking around without slamming into something. If the grid lines aren’t enough for you, take safety a step further by enabling the front camera.

There are three different features that you can toggle when the camera is enabled. The first one gives you a full color preview attached to the left side of your controller when the SteamVR interface is accessed. This lets you reach for your keyboard or grab a sip of your drink (through a straw, of course). 

You can also enable Room View. This allows you to engage a blue overlay of the room at any given time. Simply double tap the System button and the camera engages. There’s no depth perception in this mode, but it does let you see the cable on the ground and objects around you. This is useful for interacting with anyone in the room, or for pulling a chair into your space if you want to switch from a standing to a seated game. 

The Room View camera can also be attached to the Chaperone walls, though this view is even less clear. Whenever you move close enough to a barrier, you engage the Chaperone walls. Room view in this mode appears more like a wire frame outline than the standard room view. In practice, this proves to be more annoying than helpful. You don’t have to pass the barriers to engage the Chaperone, so unless I was directly in the center of my small play space, Room View always wanted to be on. HTC demonstrated the feature at CES in a much larger area and it worked well. Your experience with this feature will depend on the size of your room.

Cleaning And Maintenance

HTC doesn’t provide many cleaning guidelines. The booklet says not to expose the headset to liquids, but it really doesn’t explain why. We had better documentation with the Vive Pre, which explained that the headset sensors can be damaged by liquid, including water. To clean the headset, use a dry cloth. The controllers house the exact same sensors, so exercise the same care when cleaning those.

HTC provides a fine microfiber cloth to clean dust and smudges off of the lenses. HTC suggests using only the provided cloth to avoid scratching their surface.

As you pick the place you're going to set up and store the Vive, try to avoid areas with direct sunlight. The sensors on the headset, controllers and base stations can all be damaged by sunlight.

Hygiene

Many of the games available for the Vive are very active. Others may leave you nervous. Either way, you're probably going to sweat, which will eventually get on the headset's foam material. Thankfully the foam is easily removable, but HTC doesn’t give any guidance on maintaining it. If you plan to let others use your Vive, it would be wise to purchase a washable cover for the foam gasket.

  • comedichistorian
    Well it looks like as of 7:30 AM on April 5th you can't order one from the official site if you're from the US or Australia. It doesn't say this anywhere on the site, they just won't let you continue on after the order summary. However, if I select "Ireland" as my location I am able to go to the next step and presumably complete the order. Anyone have any ideas as to what this might mean? Anyone else able to actually complete an order after having selected US?
    Reply
  • DrakeFS
    They have got to do something about that cable. I fully expect a base station and belt receiver accessories to be sold soon, probably not by HTC\Oculus though. The latency that a wireless solution would add to an application sensitive to latency may be the reason both HMDs are cabled. Then again, it could just be cost, after all $800 sounds a lot better than $1000.

    Guess if it annoys me enough, I could always do a ceiling mount.
    Reply
  • comedichistorian
    Ooooh yeah I like that idea. An easy/cheap yet surprisingly reliable option would be one of those Command Strip units. Get a few loops that'll hold 5lbs and mount them wherever needed in your room and you're done. Those things really hold up, I've mounted heavy pictures with them and they've been holding up fine even with all the temp changes and a small quake we got here.
    Reply
  • turkey3_scratch
    This makes me now want to dish out the extra $200 for this over the Oculus. Except, I actually don't have the open room, I don't even have 5x5 feet so I don't think it's a possibility.
    Reply
  • kcarbotte
    They have got to do something about that cable. I fully expect a base station and belt receiver accessories to be sold soon, probably not by HTC\Oculus though. The latency that a wireless solution would add to an application sensitive to latency may be the reason both HMDs are cabled. Then again, it could just be cost, after all $800 sounds a lot better than $1000.

    Guess if it annoys me enough, I could always do a ceiling mount.
    Ooooh yeah I like that idea. An easy/cheap yet surprisingly reliable option would be one of those Command Strip units. Get a few loops that'll hold 5lbs and mount them wherever needed in your room and you're done. Those things really hold up, I've mounted heavy pictures with them and they've been holding up fine even with all the temp changes and a small quake we got here.


    The problem with a ceiling mount is the length of the cable isn't enoug for that.
    you'd have to run the cable up the wall, which would require at least 7 feet, likely more, than across the ceiling to your play space - which would be around 5 feet from the wall or more.
    You might have enough range to reach your head, but you definitly won't be walking around in a room-scale space like that.

    The cable is somethign we're just going to have to live with for now. It's not going away for the first generation, so get used to it. We're looking at probably two years or more with the current hardware before any major iterations hit the market. I may be wrong about that, it could end up being like the cell phone market, but for now, this is what we have to work with.

    It's really not as big of a concern as people think. Yes, you are aware of it always. No, it doesn't detract from the experience enough to brush it off due to a tether.
    Reply
  • Borisblade7
    They have got to do something about that cable. I fully expect a base station and belt receiver accessories to be sold soon, probably not by HTC\Oculus though. The latency that a wireless solution would add to an application sensitive to latency may be the reason both HMDs are cabled. Then again, it could just be cost, after all $800 sounds a lot better than $1000.

    Yeah its teh latency added by the wifi. Until someone finds some work around, its going to be cabled. It doesnt matter so much with the Rift since you can only sit on your ass and play it, but with this being superior with its ability to actually move around, being tethered can cause issues. Having said that, most every vid i've seen of people using this, it really wasnt much of an issue.
    Reply
  • kcarbotte
    This makes me now want to dish out the extra $200 for this over the Oculus. Except, I actually don't have the open room, I don't even have 5x5 feet so I don't think it's a possibility.

    You can filter the SteamVR store to show you what is available for Standing experiences. These games still use the hand controlls, but they don't required that you walk around.
    A quick search on steam showed there are 54 titles that support standing configurations and don't need room scale.
    Over 30 of those titles launched today and are true VR games designed from the ground up on Vive.

    http://store.steampowered.com/search/#sort_by=Released_DESC&sort_order=DESC&category1=998&tags=-1&vrsupport=101%2C302&page=1
    Reply
  • turkey3_scratch
    Ahh okay, that's good to know.
    Reply
  • kcarbotte
    They have got to do something about that cable. I fully expect a base station and belt receiver accessories to be sold soon, probably not by HTC\Oculus though. The latency that a wireless solution would add to an application sensitive to latency may be the reason both HMDs are cabled. Then again, it could just be cost, after all $800 sounds a lot better than $1000.

    Yeah its teh latency added by the wifi. Until someone finds some work around, its going to be cabled. It doesnt matter so much with the Rift since you can only sit on your ass and play it, but with this being superior with its ability to actually move around, being tethered can cause issues. Having said that, most every vid i've seen of people using this, it really wasnt much of an issue.


    For smooth graphics in VR, the target is 11.11ms of latency. GPUs are just barely able to deliver that reliably over HDMI, adding a wireless signal in there will make it far higher, making it infeasible for the majority of people.
    I'm sure there's a wireless version in some research lab somewhere, but we're likely going to have to wait a while for that to hit consumer markets.
    Reply
  • hoofhearted
    Intel NUC, GTX980 MXM, a lith battery and a backpack will solve the cable issue. Maybe something that converts methane gas to electricity combined with an anal probe will solve the power issue. Throw in a free can of beans.
    Reply